Wednesday, May 02, 2007

Almost one in two Mexicans has a family member working in the United States, and a third of those were sent money in the past year


The poll of 1,000 people showed 45 percent had at least one relative across the border and 61 percent rated the money they send as “very important,” illustrating Mexico's reliance on remittances.

Some 11 million Mexicans in the United States sent home a record $23 billion to their families last year – Mexico's second-biggest source of foreign currency after oil imports, even dwarfing the tourism industry.

Monday's survey showed immigration to the United States, much of it illegal, peaked during the 1990s, after Mexico was battered by an economic crisis.

Eight percent of those polled said they themselves had worked in the United States at some time.

As many as one in two people in Mexico live on less than $5 a day, and a lack of job opportunities prompts thousands to risk their lives crossing the border illegally each year.

Border arrests were down by just under a third in the first few months of this year but more than 150 immigrants have already died trying to cross over, mainly of heat exhaustion.

The United States is building a 700-mile fence along parts of its 2,000-mile border with Mexico and boosting security by adding trucks with infrared cameras, underground sensors that detect footsteps and surveillance drones.

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