Migrant workers sending money home has become the biggest source of foreign income in some poor European countries, the World Bank has said.This report focused on European and Central Asian countries, of course, but is applicable to the United States as well.
In a report on European and Central Asian (ECA) nations, the bank said that remittances sometimes beat foreign investment aid and exports in size.
The article continues:
The payments are a crucial part of the economy, have served as a "cushion" against the economic and political turbulence those countries have experienced, the Bank said.In 2005, according to the study, some $167 billion was transferred out of developed Europe to developing European and Asian countries, compared to $63 billion in official foreign aid.
"For many of the poorest countries in the region [remittances] are the largest source of external financing," the report added.
Some of the money is sent via official transfer services while others send money with friends.
Think about that for a moment, and then think about the United States. Mexico, while not necessarily a developing country per se, received about $1.2 billion in economic aid. I'd estimate something like 90% came from America. In addition, America accounts for about 85% of Mexican exports, or $182 billion. If the proportions hold true, then immigrant workers are responsible for pumping anywhere from $3 billion to $400 billion into the Mexican economy, annually. Not inconsequential to a nation with a GDP of $1 trillion.
The largest portion of this goes for food.
A better case can be made for the Dominican Republic, truly a developing nation: The US accounts for about $4 billion of the DR's $5 billion in exports, and gives roughly an additional $400 million in foreign aid. Again, holding proportions relatively constant (the US being basically the sole destination for immigrant workers out of the DR), the US probably "exports" an additional $1 billion in transfer payments.
What does all this mean? Well, without the "under the table" payments, we likely would be facing requests for additional foreign aid, and all the political baggage that goes with that. Further, these unofficial payments go directly to families in the home nation, and are spent in the home economy by these individuals and families.
Thus neatly circumventing the bureaucracy of the home government AND administrative costs of non-governmental organizations (NGOs).
It sounds like a fairly efficient system for providing aid and incentive to people in poor countries. So you're not likely to see immigration reform, serious immigration reform, on any Congressional docket anytime soon. Indeed, it seems more like we should be encouraging this kind of behavior as much as possible.
Take these folks, for example (hat tip Miss Cellania)