Mexican and U.S. Bishops Call for Lower Fees on Worker Remittances

Prelates Assail Exorbitant Rates

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MEXICO CITY, APRIL 23, 2004 ( Mexican and U.S. bishops have asked Presidents Vicente Fox and George Bush to regulate the remittances of Mexican workers’ earnings in the United States to their families back home.

In a document entitled «Together on the Path of Hope,» some 200 bishops of both countries said that fees charged by money exchange companies are excessive.

Mexico is the leader among developing countries of foreign currency receipts from workers abroad.

According to the World Bank’s 2004 Report on Global Development, Mexicans last year sent $13.2 billion from abroad (99% of it from the United States) to their families in Mexico. India is in second place, with $8.4 billion in worker remittances, and the Philippines is third, with $8 billion.

The World Bank says that remittances have become one of the main sources of foreign exchange earnings of developing countries. In Mexico, worker remittances are in second place, after oil exports and ahead of tourism.

The bishops assailed what they say is the abusive operation of money exchange companies.

They point out in their document that «private companies that offer this service charge very high prices, as high as 20%,» and they urge Fox and Bush to regulate the remittances, avoid abuses, and establish more efficient ways of sending money «so that it will reach those who really need it.»

Worker remittances sent through money exchange companies, from the United States to Mexico, are estimated at close to $1.5 billion. Companies of all sorts offer «money in minutes» services on the streets of big cities such as New York, Los Angeles, Houston and Chicago.

Illegal workers, who do not want to be identified by the immigration authorities, use the service even if their families received 20% to 30% less than they send.

The bishops propose that a percentage of the fees charged by the money exchange companies be used for the social development of the Mexican workers’ native communities, particularly in poor states such as Oaxaca and Chiapas.

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