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"On an average day I get numerous phone calls from immigrants calling the MSF emergency number asking for $10 to $20, so that they can afford the bare essentials," says Juarez, who was part of the 1990s wave of Mexican workers drawn to the area by a construction boom.
tral Asia are slowing. In contrast, flows from the Gulf by Mexico’s Central Cooperation Council countries to Asia and South Asia recession Bank disclosed that have grown rapidly.”13 Mexico seems to be paying one of the high- And total remittances fell 3.6 percent in 2008 to est penalties so far. According to the World remittAnces $25 billion. The decline Bank, “[o]fficial remittances declined by 3.7 per- marked the first annual cent between January and September 2008 com- drop on record since the by Diana Rodriguez pared to the same period the previous year. Later bank began keeping track in the year, however, recorded remittances fell sharp- of the figures in 1995. The ly, prompting the Mexican authorities to fore- Rising unemployment reduction was sharpest in cast an 8 percent decline in remittance flows in 2008.”14 and the (not-unre- the Federal District (19.6 The same report concluded that officially record- lated) crackdown on percent), and the states ed remittances were likely to decline by a total of undocumented work- of Tabasco (13.9 percent) 4.4 percent in 2008. These data tell only part of the ers worldwide have put and Hidalgo (13.5 per- story since there is no way to systematically track fluc- developing countries and cent). Michoacán, which tuations in unrecorded remittances. Yet because remit- their emigrants in a bind. received the nation’s larg- tances are a family affair, the fact remains that even in Especially hard hit will est total of remittances the context of an ever-escalating crisis deeply affect- be countries like Mexico, ($4.45 million), was one of ing the fortune and wages of Mexican immigrants in where remittances from the few able to sustain a the U.S., migrants will still send money home, taking the U.S. not only con- modest growth rate of 2.7 extra jobs or drawing on savings if necessary. Again, tribute a large chunk of percent. love and family connections will continue to drive dollar reserves, but act Mexican immigrants remittances to relatives south of the border. According as an informal safety net who remain in the U.S. to the World Bank, despite a decrease in the incomes for the poor. face the double burden of of Mexican migrant households in 2007, remittance In January, a report continuing to provide for flows increased that same year.15 But the crisis is still unfolding. The decline in the latter part of 2008 will likely continue. Because the bulk of remittances go to current-use expenses (food, The three oldest sisters said the additional clothing, school fees, textbooks, uniforms, and the income paid for school fees, books and uniforms. like) the impact of even relatively minor declines can Without the remittances, their mother confided, the be severe—especially as the flow of private capital girls would most likely be headed toward early mar- continues to dry up. riages and children. In a recent visit to the Mixtec Sierra region—a In the short term the global economic crisis is source of massive migration from Mexico to New York, likely to dampen further migration from developing a researcher and I met the widowed mother of a young countries. There is preliminary evidence suggesting Mexican migrant in Queens, New York. Every month, that poor economic conditions are motivating Mexi- the migrant sent $200 to $250 (in good months, $300) cans to remain at home. Mexico City’s National Sta- to his mother and five siblings left behind in Puebla. tistics, Geography and Information Institute recently These “migradolares” supplement the small amount reported that, from August 2007 to
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