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  1. #1
    Senior Member
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    Jun 2005
    North Carolina

    Migrants have less to send home

    Posted on Sun, Jun. 01, 2008

    Migrants have less to send home as they spend more for food, gas

    Star-Telegram staff writers

    UCACUARO, Mexico -- More than a decade has passed since Petra Chavolla's children began leaving. Like most kids from this impoverished patch of Michoacan, they followed friends and relatives to Fort Worth, where jobs and a better future awaited.

    In all that time, not a Mother's Day went by that they didn't send Mom a little something extra.

    Until this one.

    Hit by hard economic times, rising gas and food prices, and a dwindling number of jobs for undocumented workers, Chavolla's children in Fort Worth called her on Mother's Day to say they couldn't scrape any money together in time to mark the occasion.

    "I could tell they wanted to cry," said Chavolla, 62, fighting back tears herself. "I told them, 'If you can't, well, you just can't.'"

    The challenges facing the Chavollas tell of a looming financial crisis that reaches across Mexico, where families who depend on money sent from relatives in the U.S. -- called remittances -- are opening up lighter envelopes or waiting longer to get them.

    Remittances to Mexico hit $23.7 billion in 2006, more than double the amount reported in 2002 and representing the second-largest source of foreign income behind oil, figures show.

    But after years of double-digit increases, the cash sent back home rose only 1 percent last year and then dropped 2.9 percent in the first quarter of this year. The Bank of Mexico, which tracks the international transfers, is now predicting remittances will register a 1.5 percent decline by the end of 2008, which would be the first annual decrease since modern record-keeping began in 1995.

    Jesus Cervantes, director of statistics for the central bank, attributed the drop to reduced immigration, a workplace crackdown on illegal laborers and rising unemployment in the immigrant population. It is particularly acute in the struggling construction industry, which employs nearly a quarter of the Mexican immigrants living in the United States, he said.

    But to many of the migrants who live and work in Fort Worth, it's mostly about the cost of living.

    Graciela Mendoza works in a mattress factory making $7.75 an hour. She said she tries to send $300 every other week to her mother and 14-year-old son, but often she can afford to send only $150.

    Mendoza, who lives in Fort Worth with her husband and four other children, said expenses have doubled in the past year while her salary has remained the same.

    "These are hard times for everybody, but it is worse for us because we have the responsibility to take care of people that don't have anything else but our money to survive," Mendoza said.

    Close Fort Worth ties

    Michoacan, the south-central state where Chavolla lives, receives more remittances than any other -- more than $500 million in the first three months of this year. That's down 3 percent, about the national average, compared with the same period last year.

    In nearby Zamora at the Elektra store, a banking outlet that handles Western Union wire transfers from the states, manager Manuel Basurto said it's gotten so bad that in a few instances he's seen families sending cash to struggling relatives in the United States.

    "It's only a handful of cases, but in the three years I've been working here, I've never seen that," he said.

    And where he once had 10 people a day coming to pick up money from the U.S., Basurto says he now sees about seven on average.

    Here in tiny Ucacuaro, a farming village of some 600 residents about two hours east of Guadalajara, it's next to impossible to find anybody who doesn't rely on money sent from a close relative in Fort Worth.

    Some of the houses here, built with the proceeds of migrant labor, look as though they've been plucked from an American suburb and dropped onto well-tended yards.

    But many are empty, cared for by elderly couples who find themselves with no children left in Mexico. If the kids aren't U.S. residents or citizens, chances are good that they haven't been home in years.

    Chavolla, who lives in nearby Maravillas, hasn't seen her youngest son since he went to Fort Worth seven years ago at age 17. Two other brothers left 11 years ago. With no guarantee of getting back across the heavily patrolled U.S. border, they haven't been back since.

    It's a similar story at the Ucacuaro home of Salvador and Juana Pulido, who are related to the founders of Pulido's restaurant in Fort Worth. (The founders of Joe T. Garcia's are from another neighboring village, Yurecuaro.) All five of the Pulido children live and work in Fort Worth. None have been back home in years, but it hasn't always been that way.

    Before 9-11, it was common for illegal immigrants to come and go, swelling the home village during holidays but otherwise leaving behind the young, the old and the sick the rest of the year. Ucacuaro still welcomes home hundreds of returning sons and daughters during Christmas, but those who venture back tend to have legal work papers.

    A changing picture

    José Luis Gallegos is president of the Fort Worth-based Club Ucacuaro, which promotes communication between migrants and their families in Ucacuaro. He and his wife, Teresa, built a house in Ucacuaro with the intent of moving back with their four children, but they decided to stay in Fort Worth after gaining legal status in 1986. The home in Ucacuaro is used for vacations.

    "I won't go back to Ucacuaro just because the way they live there is not my way," Teresa Gallegos said. "My children are ... here and they won't go there, so I won't either."

    One new phenomenon, according to Martin Valdez, owner of a tortilla shop in Ucacuaro, is that more young Mexicans have been deported, couldn't find a good-paying job in the U.S. or have just decided it's not worth the hassle of trying.

    "Personally, I know 10 people that haven't gone or ... came back from the States," said Valdez, a graduate of Arlington Heights High School in Fort Worth. "A lot of them prefer to stay here and just tough it out here in Mexico."

    One such teen is Mendoza's 14-year-old son, who lives with his grandmother in Salvatierra, Guanajuato, near Ucacuaro. She said he was caught entering the United States three years ago and is hesitant to try again.

    But not all of the youth are struggling, Gallegos said.

    "I would say that many young people in Ucacuaro prefer to wait for the remittances money rather than looking for a job," Gallegos said.

    Rodolfo Garcia Zamora, an economist and immigration expert at the Autonomous University of Zacatecas, said there is little evidence to suggest that large numbers of Mexicans are beginning to return home. But if that does begin to happen, he said Mexico -- already unable to control a wave of mafia-fueled violence -- isn't ready to cope with the social upheaval it surely would trigger.

    Garcia pointed out that the rise of manufacturing plants, or maquiladoras, straddling the U.S.-Mexico border, stems in part from a Mexican government initiative to find jobs for Mexican laborers who returned home after the end of the bracero guest-worker program in the 1960s.

    "The Mexican economy is not prepared for a massive return of immigrants from the United States," Garcia said. "The government, on both the state and federal level, have not taken this problem seriously. ... In terms of social and political stability, it would be extremely delicate."

    'Everybody is cutting down'

    The remittance slowdown is sending economic shockwaves throughout Ucacuaro and surrounding villages. Salvador and Juana Pulido estimate that remittances from Texas cover half of the costs of his small farming operation in Ucacuaro, now hit with higher feed and fertilizer prices.

    "I couldn't survive doing this without the help from my children," Salvador Pulido said.

    In 2007, after saving for years, he said his kids sent him about $37,000 to buy a Case tractor. But in recent months, as their children struggle themselves, the Pulidos have been making fewer trips to the bank

    "Before, they would get together and send us money every month," Juana Pulido said. "Now it's more like every two months."

    Valdez said business at his tortilla shop is way down.

    "People that were buying three kilos are buying two. The people that were buying two kilos are buying one kilo," Valdez said. "You know, everybody is cutting down."

    Jaime Martinez, 50, a school teacher in Ecuandureo, about 10 minutes from Ucacuaro, said he hears complaints from parents that there isn't as much money coming in from family members in Fort Worth.

    "They blame it on the recession that the country is going through and seem nervous about what the future for the small village will be if things get worse in the United States," Martinez said.

    With less money coming in, Martinez said, some families have canceled their phone service. He also says that students at his elementary school are not wearing new clothes.

    "Those are symptoms of the shortage of money families are having in the U.S. and how it reflects on their relatives here," Martinez said.

    Doing what they can

    In Fort Worth, migrants are making sacrifices to make sure money is sent home.

    Three of Salvador Pulido's sons work full-time jobs during the week and have recently started doing landscaping work on the weekends. The money made from the gardening work is sent back.

    One of the sons, who asked not to be identified, said his wife recently gave birth to their second child, and expenses -- "the baby formula costs around $25 and only lasts for a week" -- cuts into the amount of money he remits.

    "All we knew when we left Ucacuaro was that we wanted a better life and to be able to provide for our parents, but now we're unsure for how long are we going to be able to do it," he said.

    Guadalupe and Martha Chavolla, no relation to Petra Chavolla, said they have cut back on eating out and changed their shopping habits so they can send money -- about $100 every two months -- to their mother, 88-year-old Guadalupe Arroyo de Chavolla.

    "Sometimes you go to the supermarket looking just for a gallon of milk but at the end you are in the waiting line with a full cart of groceries," said Martha Chavolla, a mother of four who cleans houses. "Now I go when my refrigerator is almost empty, that way I don't spend the money I may need for my mom."

    Guadalupe Chavolla, who cleans houses with her sister, said she now prepares lunch for her husband, Refugio Quintero, which saves them about $50 a week. That allows Quintero, a carpenter in Fort Worth, to send money to his unemployed sister in Zamora.

    "It's been hard to set aside money for our relatives with this economy, even though I make the effort because my sister needs it more than me," said Quintero, who has seen his hours cut from 45 a week to 37.

    "Here we have our jobs; there they have nothing."

    Root reported from Michoacan, Mexico. Morales reported from Fort Worth.
    Jay Root, 512-476-4294 Constanza Morales, 817-390-7664
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  2. #2
    Senior Member Dixie's Avatar
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    Apr 2006
    Texas - Occupied State - The Front Line
    If the kids aren't U.S. residents or citizens, chances are good that they haven't been home in years.
    So, wouldn't that mean that deportation is reuniting families?

    "I couldn't survive doing this without the help from my children," Salvador Pulido said.
    Your children should be home helping you farm your land, instead of working for someone in Texas. That's how my ancestors did it! That's how they survived the Great Depression.

    Join our efforts to Secure America's Borders and End Illegal Immigration by Joining ALIPAC's E-Mail Alerts network (CLICK HERE)

  3. #3
    Senior Member legalatina's Avatar
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    Sep 2007
    500 million dollars sent to that one area...and what do they have to show for it? Nothing....they spend on consumibles and many avoid employment since the remittances keep them afloat. It seems to me that there is no investment mind-set .....for that kind of remittance money ...those towns should';ve been completely transformed. How many schools were built,.; many scholarships were granted to kids to go to better private schools? Probably none...but they sure have their new trucks, their big, empty homes, and the big-screen TV';s yet the heads of households abandon their families, kids grow up w/o parents and their prospects for a good job are still as dim as before....because there's been no investment in education.

  4. #4
    Senior Member AngryTX's Avatar
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    Nov 2006
    Well Boooo ****ing Hooooo!!!!

  5. #5
    Senior Member
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    Mar 2006
    Santa Clarita Ca
    By sending money back for so many years, they have created a welfare
    mentality. Why work when the illegal aliens will send money back ? Why farm, go to school ?

    The illegal aliens feel like big shots until they return home and everyone wonders why they didn't use some of the remittances to build a future.
    Join our efforts to Secure America's Borders and End Illegal Immigration by Joining ALIPAC's E-Mail Alerts network (CLICK HERE)

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