Monday, November 09, 2015

Remittances to Mexico

Many people do not know what that phrase means.  They do not understand that the reason there are immigrants from Mexico, and Central America in the USA working is so they can send money home to
help their family.  Some are escaping the fear of death from countries in Central America where the war on drugs promoted by the USA,  failed miserable and totally destabilized the entire country and area. But for the most part they want to make a better life for themselves and their families.

It seems from things I read recently by very angry people about immigrants that they have no clue why
these people are in the USA or what they do while they are there.

Let's start with remittances.

If you saw lines of people waiting in front of a bank in Mexico, would you know........or would you wonder why they are there?

This is a typical scene at the beginning of the month.  They are there to withdraw money sent home by fathers, husbands, brothers, young men and women also, who are sending money home to help.  The main
reason they went to the states in the first place.  To find work to make money.

The average transaction is not large.  About $293.73 per transaction.  However, that can be the difference
between eating and not; having meds and not; having electricity or not.  The basic essentials of life.

In the first nine months of 2014, $17.58 BILLION dollars was sent home to help!  Yes, indeed.  Those workers in the USA care.  They really take it seriously to care and to send money.  I've known and hired many workers who slept 7 or 8 men in a one or two bedroom house or apartment.  They brown bagged their lunches and snacks.  They went home at night to play dominoes or watch TV rather then spend money on frivolous things like movies, or restaurants or things others take for granted. They sent money home.

Most immigrants initially do not have cars.  They use the buses, a bicycle or their feet.  Sometimes they can get a ride with a friend, if they both are working the same job.  What time does their day usually start?  Long before ours.  Just think if you had to take four or five buses to get to a construction job - both ways.  I'm not making any of this up.  Not one bit. And, their days usually end long after ours by the time they finish their work and can get home by buses, a bicycle or their feet.

Surprised?  Here's another interesting fact. Remittances are the second source of income for Mexico, right behind oil.  And, the third source of income is tourism.  Yes, it is very important to the economy of Mexico, still, at the present time.

Mexico and Central America are cash societies for the most part.  Credit is a new thing.  So, when people who have emigrated to the USA are there after a while, they don't buy a house until they have cash!  They don't buy cars until they can pay for it.  Like it used to be in the times after WWII when credit was a new concept.

The contribution of all of this cash for real estate, food, transportation, and all the other segments necessary to survive, is very necessary to the economy of the USA as well.  Sorry I don't have the figure of what is estimated to be their financial contribution to the USA.

Another fallacy is that immigrants live off the system and pay no taxes.  Not possible.  They have to have a social security number, valid or not, to get most jobs.  They pay taxes, but never get any benefits from all the money they pay in.  A boon to the social security system when you have over 11 million people paying into something and not getting a dime of it back.  Amazing isn't it?

Waiting for welfare checks?  That seems to be another comment frequently used as to why immigrants are in the USA.  Welfare has never been part of the cycle of their life back where they come from, unless you count the approximately $30USD the elderly get in Mexico, which is about all I know about as welfare. Yes, there is assistance with healthcare, seeds to plant crops, but no where near the amount of assistance programs that the USA provides to their citizens.

The statistics show that the percentage of people getting welfare in the USA that are immigrants is no greater, and thought to be less then the percentage of people who do receive welfare that are US citizens.

As far as the borders being secure.  The big fallacy is that people are streaming across, as politicians  like to point out.  Well, I don't know where anyone gets that idea.  The stats show the numbers are so low and have been so low for the last 21/2 years that they are almost at a minus percent.  That means more are going back to their countries then are entering the USA. I have crossed those borders all over the place.  I've NEVER once seen someone trying to cross illegally.  And, I've looked.

The fear of the borders is big business!  The military contractors and defense contractors are making off like bandits with all the various ways they can make money.  Building bigger and larger checkpoints.  Providing cars for Border patrol agents.  Clearing land as far as forty miles inland.  Putting up security cameras as far inland as 150 miles. All of this doesn't count the salaries, the uniforms, the drones, the aircraft, boats.  You name it.  They have thought of a way to make money.

The number of governmental agencies who are tasked with protecting the border have gone from US Customs, only, in the 70's to now including DEA, Border Patrol, Homeland Security and many others too
numerous to name!  It's big business.  It just makes me shake my head at how politicized the border between the USA and Mexico has become.

But I digress.  The rhetoric continues about how the immigrants have destroyed the American way of life.
What a sad comment when the immigrants are so patriotic in their home countries and want nothing more
then to be that way in their new home country the USA.  IF they had a path to citizenship that did not cost an arm and a leg, my bet is that eleven million immigrants would be whittled down to very few who would not become citizens.

Hopefully, soon, or sometime in my lifetime, those eleven million human beings will be thought of in a humane way and allowed to not live with a stigma and fear over their heads that at any moment they could be rounded up and separated from their families to be sent to a country that many have not lived in for 20  or 30 years or more.    That is happening every day.  Can you imagine if they attempted to do that with eleven million immigrants?

I shudder to imagine that.  Hopefully you do as well.


Droelma said...

Babs thank you for posting this ! I hope many will read your excellent post and maybe understand a little bit better about the life of the undocumented Mexican/ Hispanic worker in the US. I hope this is especially true for some within the expat community, who admit living " the good life " here in Mexico, yet bash the undocumented workers, because they have no idea or dont care to be well informed in regard to what is going on in their host country. Excellent writing on your part ! THANK YOU AGAIN.

Babs said...

Thanks Droelma for your input. I really got on a rant last night as a result of some comments made on FB about illegals. And, I had been wanting to write about this for some time. I agree, I'm always surprised and disappointed when I hear expats living here putting down the undocumented workers. I don't get it. I'm disappointed in their lack of knowledge and understanding.

Retired Teacher said...

Thank you, Barbara, for presenting this information. Unfortunately, those who are rabidly "anti-immigrant" never let facts get in the way of their emotions. The sad thing is that in the United States there has always been some group of immigrants that have been demonized, be it the Irish, the Chinese, or now the Mexicans. Some people just fear "the other", and have a need to feel superior to someone else.

If somehow all the undocumented workers were gone, can you imagine the screaming and complaining when the price of fruits and vegetables in the supermarket went sky-high?

Cat in KC MO said...

Babs, I think you know my “take” on this country’s immigration “issues.”

You are right; immigrants are deported daily and in a lot of cases some of their family members are left behind to fend for themselves. A few years ago in the area I live, a couple were deported to Mexico simply because they were “caught” in a minor traffic stop and had been here unlawfully for almost 20 years. Their 18-year-old daughter was left behind to try and figure out how to care for her four younger siblings (all are U.S. citizens).

I can only imagine what a tragedy it would be for the families IF this country attempted to remove eleven million immigrants and also a tragedy for this country because I guarantee you that large areas of the country would “shut down” if their hard working immigrants were suddenly taken away.

Babs said...

Cat M, a man who works for me from time to time painting has an entire family of US citizens in North Carolina. Children and a wife. He was deported after working there for 14 years. Once you're deported you cannot reenter for ten years without going to prison, if caught. He can't allow that. So he works as many jobs as possible here in SMA to send money to his family up there that he has not seen in eight years. That is just ONE of many, many stories.

I wish all the legal and illegal immigrants could sit down and not work for 48 hours.
It would definitely be a wake up call for US citizens as to how important these people are to keeping so many businesses running.

Babs said...

Dear Retired Teacher - Yes, indeed not only fresh fruits and vegetables, but shut down restaurants, hotels, landscaping and construction companies. The workers who man the lines at chicken processing plants. A nasty, nasty job. Oh and then there are beef processing plants. That is the nastiest of the nasty. I know, I've been in one in Amarillo, Texas.

I don't know the answer but I know if all the legal and illegal immigrants sat down for 48 hours, there would probably be shock waves going through the businesses and the economy.

I remember as a little girl in Chicago, people talking about people of different ethnicities. I still remember some of the derogatory terms and what they said and that was over 60 years ago! I just don't understand the need to look down on others.

I guess I can thank my parents for that. I also remember my dad telling me that no one was better then anyone else. From the street sweeper to the head of a company. I've always remembered that as well and tried to live by it.

Droelma said...

I forgot to mention earlier that I wonder why it has become the default assumption that all the illegal immigrants are from Mexico or at least from Latin America. What about all the other undocumented persons who come from the rest of the world ? Would a new right leaning government just charter planes to send them back to Haiti, Somalia, Afghanistan or where ever else they come from ? Who would pay for it? What would it do to the country in the eyes of the rest of the world ?
I just can't wrap my head around the idea of getting rid of that many people who would amount to all people living in New York plus all living in Los Angeles. I just can't believe that anyone could be serious, but then again I should also refrain from opinions, because as a German sadly I know what is possible .
Babs, my parents and especially after their death my grandmother educated me according to the same principle. She always told me that in the camp she was she met the wife of the director of the local hospital who at that moment was just as much a hungry, lice ridden, emaciated " armer Mensch " ( poor Mensch ) as she was. She always told me that once we are hungry and naked ( presumably when we are born and far as the naked part is concerned ) we are all alike.

Barbara Lane said...

Bravo for this post. I am friends with a 60+ year old Mexican man who has been in the U.S. for over 20 years. He has worked at the same job almost 20 years, makes an hourly wage, has never had a raise, gets one unpaid week off a year, and has never missed a day of work in all that time. All the gringo workers at this place of business have received raises all along the way, get two weeks paid vacation each year, and move on up. Not so the undocumented worker. He had papers and then when his working visa expired he cannot get it renewed given his age - he has been told by an immigration specialist in Mexico if he returns to Mexico it is likely he'll not be allowed back in the U.S., and for now he can't afford to leave this job and not send the money home. As it was he was only going back to visit for a week or two every few years. So sad.

I can't tell you how often I've wanted to place an anonymous call to his employer threatening to expose his unfair labor practices. Yet it could and most likely would cost my friend his job so I stay silent. That grieves me so.....

crynoutloud said...

Hola Babs,
All I know is that U S Politicians blow a lot of smoke and throw up red herrings and threats but very little changes. It's all B S.
The relationship between Mexico and the U S is very strange. Very little changes. So to me that says that the Countries like things the way they are, no matter what they say.
Everywhere I see hard labor jobs, it's Mexicans doing the work. And they are small business owners, too. Sounds like they would be good Republicans, but guess not. The U S has spent billions for Mexico's war on drugs. The money would have been better spent on education there. Bottom line is Mexico is very beneficial to the U S just like it is.

Unknown said...

Long-time lurker on your site, Babs. I really appreciate reading this. I was just talking to my family about this weird emphasis on illegal immigrants, and the fallacy that they're such a drain on services. I'm going to send them a link to this blog entry. Thanks again!

Neil in Olympia, WA

Babs said...

Droelma, I always appreciate your perspective and your comments. Thanks for making those observations.

Barbara Lane, it was heartbreaking to read about your friend. I vacillate between anger and sorrow. Life sure isn't fair, is it?

Crynoutloud - Ahhh, but you see that "aid" to Mexico always, always, came with strings attached. A way of control. I know I came to Mexico to manage a State Dept contract for drug interdiction in 1974! Believe it or not, that contract still exists, but with different defense contractors.......

Mexico has made such improvements and strides in the last twenty years in every segment of life. Infrastructure, foreign investment, export of good, improvement in peoples lives. It's not to say that there still isn't a long way to go, but I'm amazed at how much has happened in especially in the last 20 years. And, of course, the people make life worth living every single day.

Babs said...

Thanks Neil in Washington for taking time to write! Please do pass on the blog and I'm thrilled that you feel that it is worth sharing. Yes, I know you comment from time to time, but had no idea where you are in the World. You live in a beautiful part of the USA!

Droelma said...

Earlier today I had coffee with my across-the-street neighbor/friend who takes care of my plants, mail and Millie when I am not here.
She was a primary school teacher for 30 years and gets a pension of around 7500.- pesos ( these days exactly 500. -dollars ). She and her handicapped grandson live on this amount. However the 150.- to 200.- dollars her daughter and son send every month from Texas make all the difference.
It gives her the cushion to have money for unexpected medicines, the occasional emergency home repair or purchase ( like the 35 year old water heater that blew up last year and needed replacing), extra things for the grandson, transport to the many medical appointments and the very occasional treat. Of course both her children have families of their own in the US and as Mexican immigrants make less than averages wages and sending money is often not easy.
She told me she feels very bad, because she knows that there are millions of people who live on less than 7500.- pesos a month with bigger families than hers. For her life without the remittance from her children is difficult, but for others it must be impossible and next to starvation level. She wishes she could tell her kids to not send anything anymore, but is also afraid that something that might be dealt with with a doctor's visit and some medicine paid with remittance money, might turn into a very expensive emergency if left not taken care of.
I am aware of the function and importance of remittances from abroad, but often forget that they are more often emergency aid and life saving than just a way to improve the general quality of life for those who rely on them and goes far beyond eating better, but often means just eating....period.

Babs said...

Droelma, the real life stories that you share mean so much! I realize often that the remittances mean the difference between eating and not eating, often.

I also realize that although I live my life on US Social Security and often worry about that it is 3x the amount this woman gets as a pension. I am grateful for
what I have and realize how fortunate I am.

Again, I so appreciate you sharing your experiences. Thanks.

Anonymous said...

Sadly, the whole immigration debate shows a rather ugly side of America. I have yet to find anyone who's anti-immigration who can identify any actual harm caused by illegal immigration, aside from apocryphal stories about welfare cheats, which I really can't believe exist in any material number. Though I think everyone needs to follow the rules, it's pretty clear that the illegal immigrants aren't causing any harm, and indeed doing a lot of jobs that no one else would be willing to do.

Frankly, it's the legal immigrants who are taking all the jobs, and good ones at that. Look at all the H1B immigrants making six figures in Silicon Valley and on Wall St. IMHO we should try to get Americans for those jobs and leave the chicken slaughtering to immigrants.

As for so-called "border security," the anti-immigrant folks also can't get their minds around the idea that 40% of illegal immigrants come in via airplane with tourist visas and then simply never return to their home countries. And that Chinese are America's #1 illegal immigrants these days.

As for deporting eleven million people, figure it costs $3,000 a head. Where are we going to get thirty-three billion to do this job? And is that the best possible expenditure of thirty three billion? I'd frankly rather see some infrastructure spending myself.

Finally, I think this whole immigrant debate is simply more distraction from the genuinely serious problems in our country, which are mostly fiscal and must be dealt with before they become a crisis. Unfortunately, they are difficult and cannot be addressed without upsetting politically powerful groups such as the elderly, or the banking industry. So the politicians instead create another distraction so they can keep fiddling while Rome burns.

Anyway thanks for a thoughtful post.


Kim G
Boston, MA
Where a lack of illegal Brazilians would probably stop the local economy.

Babs said...

I agree with almost all you say. I had no idea there are Brazilians in Boston!

Trump's comments remind me of the sayings of Hitler when he began to round up the Jews, for their own good to send them somewhere else. Not only would it cost money
to deport 11 million people, but who is going to take care of their jobs, their mortgages, their families, etc.

It is totally beyond common sense and fiscally irresponsible.

Lynda & Lawrie said...

Great information. Enjoyed reading your post. If you are interested please check our blog - We have lived on Isla Mujeres since 2008. Love Mexico! Cheers Lynda & Lawrie Lock

Babs said...

Thanks Lynda and Lawrie for taking time to post a comment! I looked at your blog.
How wonderful. I haven't been to Isla since was barely
a village then. I intend to keep up with ya'll through your posts.

Let me know if you ever head this way!