It seems Latin Americans are putting their money to work; it’s just taking a little trip first.The Inter-American Development Bank, a bank set up primarily to monitor and aid Latin American economies, reports that Latin American immigrants sent $62 billion from the United States to their native countries last year.
These payments, known as remittances, are part of the ongoing political debate surrounding immigration in the United States.
Rob Garnett, associate professor of economics, sees these remittances as a positive sign.
“The rising level of these remittances is a sign of accelerating economic integration between the United States and Latin America, particularly Mexico, and of increased economic freedom for migrant population,” Garnett said.
The trend deserves a careful look by policy makers and experts to see how these remittances benefit these native countries, Garnett said.
Remittances are not necessarily always a long-term investment, said Valerie Martinez-Ebers, an associate professor of political science.
“The amount is very high when they first get here,” Martinez-Ebers said. “But the amount and frequency decreases the longer they stay here.”
Martinez-Ebers, an investigator on the Latino National Survey, which surveyed more than 8,000 Latino immigrants about political issues relevant to them, said many immigrants feel an obligation to their home countries upon arrival, but as they assimilate to American life, they find that obligation decreasing.
“Most try to bring their family here,” Martinez-Ebers said. “This means there are less people depending on them at home.”
This trend indicates that Latin immigrants are making roots in the United States and are more likely to stay than they used to, Martinez-Ebers said.
Sebastian Martinez of Casa Zacatecas Group, which works as a sort of embassy for natives of Casa Zacatecas, Mexico in Fort Worth, said some Hispanics use remittances to provide stability in case they return to their home countries.
“A lot of people don’t feel secure here and want to go back,” Martinez said. “At least you have something secure you can go back to if you’re sent back home.”
Martinez said Hispanic communities on the north and south sides of Fort Worth are proof that Latin immigrants are setting down roots in the United States.
“People want to live here and open their business here,” Martinez said. “People want their kids to go to college here and have better opportunities.”
Many citizens feel a dual responsibility to both their native and new countries, Martinez said.
“We celebrate both flags,” Martinez said.