More immigrants choose to leave U.S., go home

2 06 2008


This is from the Miami Herald. This piece echoes what I have seen in other news media, about immigrants legal or not returning home or just leaving the US.

More immigrants choose to leave U.S., go home

Tired of making little money, feeling lonely and fearing arrest, more Latin American immigrants are voluntarily returning home.

There was no one thing that caused Hector Salinas to pack his bags and give up for good on the trials of life as an illegal immigrant in South Florida.

But the reasons he enumerates are echoed by increasing numbers of Latin American immigrants, both legal and not, who appear to be souring on their job prospects and going home:

It was the scant money he made at a menial restaurant job, Salinas said, just enough for food and rent, with barely anything left for his family in Mexico — the reason he came in the first place.

It was the constant fear of being detained by U.S. immigration, especially after the relative with whom he shared a home in West Kendall got stopped while driving without a license. After that, they sold the car and got around with great difficulty on a bicycle.

Finally it was the loneliness. He did not bring his wife and young children, whom he had not seen for 2 ½ years, for fear of the risk of arrest and detention.

”I never lacked for work, but I never felt good here,” Salinas, 43, said in Spanish one recent afternoon, his last in Miami before boarding a plane to Mexico City. “The patrones pay only what they want. You live with very little, and then you’re also alone, and always fearful of arriving at work and having them come looking for you.

No hard figures exist, but various surveys and anecdotes from immigrants, their advocates and consular officers in Miami suggest that more Latin Americans are voluntarily heading back home, the apparent result of the U.S. economic downturn and anxiety generated by a federal crackdown on illegal immigration.

The hardest hit appear to be those in agricultural, construction, food processing and service jobs in which many immigrants work.


A 2007 U.S. Department of Homeland Security report found that the number of permanent legal residents entering the country last year from South and Central America dropped by a quarter. That followed a big increase from 2005 to 2006.

A recent survey of Latin American immigrants by the Inter-American Development Bank highlights their malaise: 81 percent said it was more difficult now than a year ago to get a well-paying U.S. job. More than a quarter said they were considering going home in the next few years. And 68 percent said anti-immigration sentiment was a major problem — almost double the percentage who said so in 2001.


Not everyone agrees the trend is clear-cut. A consular official in Miami said many Brazilians are going home — some unwillingly, because deportations have increased, and others drawn by an economic revival at home.

”But every day more people are arriving,” said consular official Paulo Amado.

One difference, he said: Those coming to stay increasingly have work visas, in part in response to U.S. immigration enforcement.

Hundreds of Brazilians have returned in recent months to Governador Valadares, an area in the southeast of the country.

Sociology professor Sueli Siqueira, who interviewed hundreds of the returnees, found that 43 percent left the United States because they weren’t satisfied with their earnings. About 28 percent had been deported. ”The cost-benefit of this experience of migration stopped being positive,” Siqueira said, “and they began thinking about coming back.”



For Nicaraguan immigrant Arturo Padilla, the decision to leave South Florida was purely economic. He drove a good car, rented a comfortable apartment in Kendall, and brought home $600 a week from a roofing job.

But when work dried up last fall — three desperate months of eating into the savings he’d spent five years accumulating — Padilla knew it was time to head home.

”There is no sense in staying in a country where you can’t eat well, you can’t live well, you can’t earn enough to be well, and, on top of all of this, you get treated like an animal,” said the 31-year-old, who returned to Managua in January.

For some immigrants who return home, the U.S. experience has paid off in added skills.

McClatchy correspondent Jack Chang reported from Rio de Janeiro and special correspondent Melissa Sánchez reported from Managua.

For the full article go here




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