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Economy

California Leads Increase In Remittances To Mexico From U.S.

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California Leads Increase In Remittances To Mexico From U.S.
A Bank of Mexico report released this week states Mexican-Americans are sending more money south of the border.

Teresa Gomez sends money to her mother in Mexico twice a month from San Diego. The 49-year-old migrated from Mexico more than two decades ago and is now a U.S. citizen.

“That’s what one does when one comes here: work, to take care of one’s family in Mexico,” she said.

Gomez contributed to the $5.6 billion in remittances sent to Mexico from the U.S. during the first quarter of this year. According to the Bank of Mexico, total remittances to Mexico increased five percent from the same period last year.

Teresa Gomez working at a meat-packaging plant in San Diego.
Teresa Gomez
Teresa Gomez working at a meat-packaging plant in San Diego.

California sent more remittances than from any other U.S. state: $1.6 billion. Tijuana received $88.3 million in remittances – more than any other Mexican city.

Gomez said she was born in small Mexican town called Arandas in the state of Jalisco. Her 79-year-old mother still lives there with two of Gomez’s sisters. Her sisters help take care of their mother, but local salaries are low. One sister works as a dentist’s assistant for a weekly salary of 900 pesos, or around $60.

Working the cash register at a San Diego meat packaging plant, Gomez is able to send her mother $350 cash transfers twice a month.

“So she can survive over there in Mexico,” Gomez said.

Researchers said the increase in remittances is an indicator of a recovering U.S. economy. Immigrants are increasingly likely to find jobs north of the border.

David Scott FitzGerald, co-director of the Center for Comparative Immigration Studies, said the job market for Mexican-Americans has especially improved in the construction sector.

“Immigrants are working more hours and have more money to spare for their families in Mexico,” he said.

The Mexican-American unemployment rate fell to 7.2 percent last year, compared with 12.4 percent in 2010, he said.

Another factor that may be contributing to the rise in remittances is the exchange rate. Dollars sent to Mexico are worth more today than they were several years ago. The dollar has strengthened against the peso to about 15 pesos to the dollar, from about 13 pesos to the dollar last May.

“Now is a great time to send remittances to Mexico,” he said.

The $5.6 billion in remittances from the U.S. makes up the majority of total remittances to Mexico, which reached $5.7 billion in the first quarter of this year. Other countries that sent remittances to Mexico included Canada ($21.7 million), Guatemala ($17.3 million) and El Salvador ($13.1 million).

The value of remittances from Texas was the second-largest among U.S. states at $764 million, followed by Illinois with $288 million.

This report is part of KPBS' Fronteras Project, a regional news collaborative that produces reports on the changing culture and demographics of the American West and Southwest. Fronteras reporting is made possible by a grant from the Corporation for Public Broadcasting.