In Mexico, remittances rising after years of stagnation

REPORTING FROM MEXICO CITY -- Mexico saw remittances from abroad rise last year by nearly 7%, the biggest annual increase in money transfers by migrants in five years, the central bank reported Wednesday.

Year-end figures compiled by the Bank of Mexico showed that the country took in $22.7 billion in family remittances, 6.9% more than in 2010. That’s the biggest rate of increase since 2006, when the transfers began to stagnate or fall.

Remittances are among the country’s biggest sources of foreign income, and a rebound is good news after economic troubles here due in large part to the recession in the United States, Mexico’s main trading partner.

The Times has reported that Mexican migrants in places such as Los Angeles say work prospects have brightened somewhat on the U.S. side, allowing those with jobs to send more money home to relatives in Mexico. The dollar goes further in Mexico now, thanks to a weakened peso. And it is also possible that migrants with jobs in the United States are digging deeper because other family members have been without work.

Despite the year-over-year rise, transfers are still well off their levels of a few years back. Remittances last year were $3.3 billion lower than in 2007, when the recession set in.

Economic woes north of the border, coupled with tighter border controls and greater violence along the Mexican side of the frontier, have prompted many workers to skip the journey north or return to Mexico. Some scholars suggest migration patterns may be changing for good.

U.S Border Patrol figure show that the number of people arrested trying to cross the border illegally fell again last year, to 340,252. Five years earlier, more than 1 million arrests were made.

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-- Ken Ellingwood

 
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