World

With economy souring, illegal immigrants going home

Malaquias Gaspar left his farm village in southern Mexico when the economy soured in the mid-1990s. He headed north illegally and found the proverbial better opportunity in South Florida, where he made a decent living by picking fruit and building homes.

But the U.S. economic crisis has disrupted his life and the lives of countless other illegal immigrants who are now planning to leave or have already left.

Gaspar recently returned to Zimatlan de Alvarez in Oaxaca state, primarily to care for his ailing mother -- but also to plan for the future should the economy worsen in South Miami-Dade County, where his wife and four children remain.

''If we can't feed our children, we'll come back,'' said Gaspar, 40, as he sat at his family home -- upgraded with money he had sent from South Florida.

Gaspar is among millions of undocumented immigrants facing new challenges brought on by slim prospects for legalization, more aggressive federal enforcement and a worsening economy. Now, fewer immigrants are caught while trekking through the dangerous Sonoran Desert or risking their lives aboard makeshift boats in the Caribbean, indicating that fewer are trying. Those who make it through can find themselves on one of several daily federal charter flights that return deportees.

The ripple effects are already being felt. Communities in Latin America and the Caribbean report a reduction in remittances -- money sent home from the United States. That money is critical to the survival of families and the success of local civic projects. Border communities that once thrived as way stations for those heading north are now little more than ghost towns.

Read the complete story at miamiherald.com

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