Friday, October 26, 2007
Immigrants have deeply complex ties with the United States and their native countries -- and the nature of those ties might be changing. For example, millions of Mexican migrants in this country for decades have sent money back home to villages, money that allows families to pay medical bills and school fees, build houses and buy clothes or maybe start a tiny business. But the amount of migrant money flowing to Mexico has stagnated. From 2000 to 2006, remittances grew to nearly $24 billion a year from $6.6 billion, rising more than 20 percent some years. In 2007, the increase so far has been less than 2 percent. According to the N.Y. Times, "Migrants and migration experts say a flagging American economy and an enforcement campaign against illegal workers in the United States have persuaded some migrants not to try to cross the border illegally to look for work. Others have decided to return to Mexico. And many of those who are staying in the United States are sending less money home."
Nonetheless, according to a new study of the Pew Hispanic Center, the majority of Hispanic immigrants maintain ties to their native countries by sending money, calling or traveling to their homelands. Nonetheless, most see their future in the United States despite these long-distance links. Just 9 percent of Latino immigrants are "highly attached" to their birth countries -- defined by researchers as doing all three "transnational activities": dispatching funds, phoning weekly or going home in the past two years. Most sustain moderate bonds by doing one or two. But those attachments fade with time, according to the new Pew Hispanic Center report based on a nationwide survey of Latinos. "What's striking is that although the long-term trend is toward disengagement . . . most immigrants are involved in some form of contact with the place which they're from," said Roger Waldinger, a UCLA sociology professor. "What we have is a population that, as we tried to describe, is between here and there." For a story about the report, click here.