Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Remittances and migrants slow but not stopping

Remittances, the money which Salvadorans working abroad send home to El Salvador, have dropped by 11% over last year according to an AP story:

El Salvador's central bank says the money citizens living abroad sent home during the first seven months of this year dropped 11 percent compared to the same period in 2008.

The bank says remittances between January and July reached $2 billion in the Central American country compared to $2.2 billion during the same period last year.

In a report issued Monday, the bank blamed the decrease on rising unemployment in the United States, especially among Latin American immigrants.

Remittances represent the largest source of legal foreign income. About 2.5 million Salvadorans live in the United States.

Despite the unemployment in the US and the increased border enforcement, some Salvadorans still see the trek northward as their only chance to better their family's economic situation. A story on the Voices of America website interviews some Salvadorans making that journey to sneak undocumented into the US:
With the American economy failing to produce jobs in the wake of the recession, and the dangers for undocumented workers along the route to the United States increasing, the rewards of making the long trip north from Central America are lower than ever. But there are many still willing to risk their lives for a better future....

Back at the migrant house, [a migrant identifying himself as] Jose agrees that the flow of would-be immigrants has decreased in relation to his four previous trips along this route, the first of which he made in 1998.

"The times before, it is a lot of people. I do not know what happened. I remember my first time, I found maybe 700, or maybe 1,000 people, they go on train. But now, a few; it is nothing. This house, the time before, it is full, maybe 70 people, 80 people," he said.

Jose says he and other migrants realize finding work in the U.S. in the midst of a recession will be difficult. But those facing the trip unanimously agree that they will find some sort of employment north of the Mexican border, and that the risk of the trip is justified.

Juan, another Salvadoran on his second attempt to reach the United States, says he knows his chances of finding a good job when he arrives will be far better than those in El Salvador.

"Remember something - the situation in Central America is hard. I understand, somebody said, the situation, it is hard in USA.. But you cannot compare it to Central America. Never. I know it is hard, but it is more hard in my country," he said.

If the US wants to cut down on immigration, it must help the countries of Latin America improve their economies so person like these workers won't feel driven from their countries by economic circumstance. Until there is economic improvement, El Salvador will continue to live on the remittances sent back by the workers who are its chief export.

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