22 de octubre de 2020
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Immigrants in US send record cash home despite Covid-19 economic crisis

By Ana Milena Varon

Los Angeles, Sep 28 (efe-epa).- Despite being hit hard by the economic crisis caused by the coronavirus pandemic, immigrants in the United States have not stopped sending money back to their home countries, even exceeding the 2019 figure because, in some cases, it represents a kind of insurance amid the possibility that President Donald Trump might be re-elected and continue to pursue his hardline immigration policies.

"The future doesn't look very good. We don't know what's going to happen in this country and if they throw us out there has to be something to live on in Mexico," Luis Rojas, who has lived in Los Angeles for the past 18 years, told EFE.

The Mexican immigrant on Monday sent $500 to his parents in Colima, Mexico, $200 more than he usually sends. "You have to take advantage of the fact the exchange rate is good," he said. For every dollar the construction worker sends to his folks, they can receive 22.10 Mexican pesos.

He said he was motivated on Monday to send the money after reading that the dollar had moved back up in value for the first time in a month.

"You have to take advantage of it when (it's good)," he said, drawing on his experience of almost two decades in sending remittances back home.

Rojas said that his parents use some $250 for their expenses and save the rest.

"I want to have savings in Mexico because you never know. Many of the people I know are doing the same thing," the 38-year-old said, although he refused to reveal his immigration status.

Diana Bustamante, 25 and from Chiapas, Mexico, said that the "racism" that exists in the US is motivating immigrants to send home more money.

Mexico saw a 10.1 percent increase in remittances between January and July 2020 over the same period in 2019.

In the first six months of this year, immigrants sent more than $22.8 billion back to their home countries, exceeding the $20.7 billion they sent back during the same period a year ago, according to figures from the Banco de Mexico.

The average remittance amount sent to Mexico between January and July was $337, 4.33 percent larger than during the same period in 2019, when it was $323, and there were 67.64 million such payments, up from 64.14 million in January-July last year.

Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador predicted that the remittances this year will set a new record and reach about $40 billion.

Bustamante told EFE that although she had to stop working in a Los Angeles restaurant due to the pandemic, she has not stopped sending money to her grandmother, Carmen Herrera.

"For a few months I couldn't send what I usually do but I sent some (money anyway) for food and to pay the light and gas bills," she said, adding that she was raised by her grandmother after her mother emigrated when she was just 3 years old.

The young woman said that she is preparing to send more money in December. "For Christmas, I always send more, and I hope that the economic situation will recover. They're already giving me more hours (at work)," she added.

Since she is a legal immigrant, Bustamante was able to receive stimulus payments from the US government to partially offset the hit to the pocketbooks of workers affected by the pandemic.

The Banco de Mexico warned that such aid and the reactivation of employment in states like California and Texas, where the largest numbers of Mexican immigrants are located, are some of the factors leading to the increase in remittances to Mexico.

But not all immigrants have returned to work or received stimulus payments.

Jairo, a Salvadoran from Usulutan, who did not want to give his last name, said that the economic situation does not look promising in the US.

"I don't think it's going to improve, so I'm trying to have some economic security in my country and I sent part of the money I had been saving," he said.

Family remittances to El Salvador in August amounted to $559.3 million, an increase of $88.2 million (or 18.7 percent) over what was sent during the same month in 2019, according to the Salvadoran Central Reserve Bank.

The figure represents a big rebound with respect to what had been reported between January and July 2020 when El Salvador received remittances of $3.076 billion, or some $151 million (4.7 percent) less than during the same period last year.

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