updated 8/8/2007 10:05:14 PM ET 2007-08-09T02:05:14

One in three Mexican migrants living in states where Hispanic migration is relatively new stopped sending money home this year. Anti-immigrant sentiment may be to blame, the Inter-American Development Bank reported Wednesday.

In states considered “new destination” states for Latinos, such as Georgia, Pennsylvania and North Carolina, only 56 percent of Mexican migrants said they sent money home, compared with 80 percent the previous year. Migrants in these states previously had the highest remittance rate.

By contrast, the rate of remittance for the first six months of this year was 66 percent — down from 68 percent — in states where Latino immigrants have traditionally lived, such as Texas, California and New Mexico. An estimated 10.4 million Mexican immigrant adults are living in the U.S., according to the Census Bureau.

“In the past, 85 percent of Latin American immigrants who were living and working in Georgia were sending home remittances and some of the other states, North Carolina and the rest, were also 80 percent or more,” said Donald Terry, manager of the Inter-American Development Bank’s Multilateral Investment Fund.

Overall, 64 percent of Mexicans returned money they earned in the U.S. to their native country, compared to 71 percent in the first six months of 2006, the bank’s annual survey found.

Remittances totaled $11.5 billion from January to June, compared to $11.42 billion last year. The Central Bank of Mexico has reported remittances from the U.S. totaled $23.1 billion in 2006. The Inter-American bank projected only a .6 percent increase this year.

Although more Mexican migrants are in the U.S., the drop in remittances offset the newcomers and kept the amounts flat, Terry said.

Other causes cited
A slowdown in construction and increased border security were considered as possible causes. But job losses after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks far exceed the job loss in construction this year and the flow of migrants from Latin America into the U.S. has not significantly slowed, Terry said.

A similar reduction in remittances was not seen with Central American migrants, even though demographics among both groups are very similar. But a significant difference is that most Central American migrants are living in traditional states. The survey found only 3 percent are living outside traditional states.

Remittances to El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras rose by an average of 11 percent in the first half of 2007, with a projected total for the year of $9.95 billion for Central American, up from $9.25 billion in 2006.

Sergio Bendixen, whose Miami-based polling company helps assemble the annual survey, said focus groups and polling by his company suggest that the migrants in the “new” states are feeling uncertain about their future.

“It is the very ugly and sad anti-immigrant sentiment in these new states that we feel is directly responsible for the flattening out of remittances to Mexico,” he said.

Their future plans
In the survey, Bendixen asked Mexican migrants where they expected to be living in five years.

Twenty-two percent in traditional states said they would return to Mexico and 12 percent had not decided, while 31 percent in new states said they would return home and 20 percent were undecided.

Bendixen’s survey was conducted through random dialing in areas with high concentrations of Mexican and Central American immigrants. Cell phone numbers were included in the random dialing.

A total 900 interviews were conducted in Spanish. The margin of error was plus or minus 3 percentage points. About half of the respondents said they were undocumented.

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