World Economy

Central Americans Fear US May Stop Remittances

Central Americans Fear US May Stop Remittances
Central Americans Fear US May Stop Remittances

Uncertainty and fear are rising in Central American countries over how many families will manage to get by when remittances from the US are cut off under plans by the Trump administration to make tens of thousands of Salvadorans and Nicaraguans leave.

“I hope the American dream doesn’t end, that it goes on,” said Salvadoran Milagro Bonilla, a resident of the town of San Isidro, where most of the 11,000 inhabitants have risen out of poverty thanks to money sent from relatives in the United States, AFP reported.

The anxiety felt here has surged since January 8, when President Donald Trump’s government said it was ending Temporary Protected Status for nearly 200,000 Salvadorans who have lived for years in America. They risk being deported if they don’t leave by September 9, 2019 or find some alternative way to stay.

Bonilla, 60, works as a cleaning woman but relies on the money sent by her son Carlos to pay for costs associated with caring for her 86-year-old mother and a handicapped sister.

Carlos, 34, emigrated to the United States through a risky overland voyage organized by a “coyote”, or people smuggler, in November 2000. He subsequently became included in the TPS program extended by then-president George W. Bush following devastating earthquakes that hit El Salvador, becoming one of thousands of compatriots who had irregularly entered the United States and were allowed to stay there and work.

In San Isidro, residents who mainly work in subsistence agriculture warn that their country is woefully unprepared to absorb thousands of Salvadorans deported from the United States.

“Those who might come because TPS is over are going to find it tough, because here there’s no source of employment, and because they’ll go from earning $12 or $15 an hour to $5 for a day’s farm labor,” cautioned Daysi Moreno from the door of her small grocery store.

More than 60% of San Isidro emigrated to America, fleeing poverty. Today, around 90% of the town’s inhabitants receive money from their relatives in the US, far more than the 21% who do so nationally, according to Ernesto Romero, a 55-year-old economist who runs a mini-bank dealing with remittances.

The signs of the inflow of money can be seen in the construction of the houses, made of concrete and no longer clay, and the satellite dishes adorning the roofs.

Remittances account for a staggering 16% of El Salvador’s gross domestic product. Last year, more than $5 billion was received from relatives abroad.

Residents of San Isidro in El Salvador depend heavily on remittances from the US.


Add new comment

Read our comment policy before posting your viewpoints