Migrants send billions of dollars out of the U.S. every year

With migrants sending more money home than ever, leaders
from the money-transfer industry will meet in London November 1 to discuss
current trends in remittances.

Remittances are monies sent by migrants to their country of
origin, usually to support the families or communities they left behind.

In 2013, a total of about 990,553 migrants entered the
United States from countries around the world, according to a United Nations
analysis of immigration statistics reported by individual countries. That’s
actually a slight decrease from the 1,031,631 in 2012. However, the overall
trend is an upward one. In 2003 only 703,542 migrants came to the United

“Ninety percent of these migrants travel for economic

said Veronica
Studsgaard, Cofounder and CEO of the International Association of Money
Transfer Networks. “Some of them send [money] to support their families in their home countries,
other send their saving for when they go back, other to invest.” 

These numbers include refugees, but do not include
undocumented or illegal immigrants. The flow of undocumented immigrants is much
harder to track. One estimate from the Pew Research Center put the number of
undocumented immigrants at 11.1 million, or 3.5 percent of the population, in

Documented migrants sent about $55.5 billion out of the
country in 2013, according to a report from the Migration Policy Institute. Over
the same period, emigrants from the United States sent about $6.8 billion back
into the country.

Studsgaard said the modest growth in remittances over the
last few years could be attributed to improved data collection and a movement
from informal channels to more controlled channels within the Money Transfer

“They have more
options on how to send their money to their country of origin,” Studsgaard
said. “The traditional [money transfer organization] has been adapting to their
customers’ requirements; innovation has taken a big part in this. Remittances
can now reach places where money could not reach before.”

While people in the industry are quick to point out the
social and economic benefits that receiving companies reap from remittances, people
outside the industry wonder if remittances are hurting the economy of the
United States.

Remittance flows to developing countries from countries
around the world,

at $432 billion in 2015,  equaled three times the official development assistance sent
to those countries, according to the Migration and
Development Report issued by the World Bank.

The International Immigration Outlook 2016 published by
Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development found that host countries
see little if any economic effect on the national scale due to migrants. However,
the effects might be heightened in areas where large populations of migrants
are concentrated, such as major urban areas.

Migrants make up about 16 percent of the U.S. labor force,
according to the 2016 Migration and Development Report from the World Bank. Though
migrants tend to send money home, logically meaning that they have less money
to spend in the United States, the net fiscal impact of migrants tends to be
positive, according to the report. Migrants fill jobs that may otherwise go
unfilled, bring new skills, and contribute to innovation.

Migrants and remittances bring both positive and negative
effects to their new homes. To better understand their impact, the United
Nations General Assembly hosted a summit meeting on September 19 to address the
large-scale movement of refuges and migrants. On September 20, the United
States hosted a Leaders’ Summit on Refugees and announced the launch of the
World Bank’s new Global Concessional Financing Facility.

The Annual Remittance Summit at the Global Money Transfer
Summit will take a more global view, but a narrower scope, focusing on
challenges and opportunities in the remittance business.

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