Mexicans in the U.S. sent record amounts of money back home despite COVID-19 pandemic

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Travel restrictions prompt spike in electronic money transfers; many Mexican immigrants work essential jobs in U.S. and kept sending remittances home

A woman leaves a store offering services to send remittances to Mexico and Central America, Friday, Sept. 11, 2020, in San Diego. Mexican workers have confounded economists by sending home huge amounts of money during the coronavirus pandemic. Experts had predicted that migrant workers would wire less money, known as remittances, as the American economy took a dive. (AP Photo/Gregory Bull)

El PASO, Texas (Border Report) – Mexican workers abroad sent a record $36.9 billion to their homeland in the first 11 months of 2020, and some of that went to families in Tijuana, Juarez and other cities bordering the U.S.

According to data released this month by the Bank of Mexico, remittances rose 11% through November of 2020 compared to the same period in 2019 and eclipsed the record $36.4 billion sent in all of 2019. This, despite a COVID-19 pandemic that cost millions of people their jobs in the United States and prompted many others to tighten spending.

Jalisco, Michoacan and Guanajuato – states the Mexican government has identified as “exporters” of migrants to the United States – received the highest amount of remittances, with around $3 billion each. The average remittance in the form of an electronic transfer, a money order or cash was $347, which also represents an increase.

Mexico City led the municipalities with $1.56 billion in remittances received from January through September 2020. Tijuana received $467 million, Juarez got $298 million and Mexicali $230 million, according to the latest Paso del Norte Indicator Review by the University of Texas at El Paso’s Hunt Institute for Global Competitiveness.

Reynosa was the only major Mexican border city to experience a drop in remittances, according to the Institute.

Many immigrant workers are employed in service occupations hard hit by the COVID-19 pandemic, but many others work in construction, transportation and manufacturing, according to data from the Migration Policy Institute. Most states in the U.S. have deeded construction, transportation and logistics jobs as essential during the pandemic, as well as some manufacturing jobs that produce essential goods.

“Ciudad Juarez received $50 million more in remittances during the first nine months of 2020 on a year-over-year basis,” the Hunt Institute report states. “Given the integration of border sister communities, transactions that were previously conducted in person are now conducted remotely as current inland travel restrictions on the U.S. border lead to increased electronic money transfers.”

Remittances to Mexico were on the rise and hit their peak last March at around $4 billion. Then the pandemic struck, and remittances went down in April, but have picked up ever since, according to the Hunt Institute.

“The rate at which remittances have increased differ across states, increasing more rapidly in states situated across the U.S.-Mexico border,” the report said.

Money sent from abroad to Mexican states bordering the United States rose 14.1% January through September compared to 9.3% for the rest of Mexico.

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