The New York Times reported recently on a startling new trend that no one on either side of the US/Mexico border could have predicted. Community banks, immigration experts and government officials have noticed a rise in "reverse remittances," or people sending money from Mexico up north to family members who have moved to the United States.
The financial crisis in America has hit the immigrant community so hard that many have now found themselves begging the families they left behind in search of better opportunities for money. And although immigration from Mexico to the United States has declined in the last year, many immigrants who already made the move are reluctant to return home to Mexico. Why? Because many of their families struggled and sacrificed for years to raise the thousands upon thousands of dollars necessary to pay off the coyotes who help them sneak across the border.
“It’s something that’s surprising, a symptom of the economic crisis,” said Martín Zuvire Lucas, who heads a network of community banks. “We haven’t been able to measure it but we hear of more cases where money is going north.”
“I’d say every month 50,000 pesos are sent from here to there,” said Edith Ramírez Gonzalez, a sales executive at a rural bank. “And from there, we’d receive about 30,000 pesos (or a little less than four thousand dollars).”
Although Mexico has been hit particularly hard by the economic crisis as well, it's a case of relative poverty. Sirenia Avendano and her husband have less money than their sons, who are both in their 20s and working as waiters in Southern Florida. Her sons have had their hours cut and seen their tips fall drastically. But Avendano points out, “We’re poor, but nobody can throw us out of this house." Avendano says. She and her husband own their house and grow crops for food on their own land. "They worry about that," Avendano says through tears of her sons, "What happens if they can’t pay the rent?”