MADISON, Wis. (5/2/08)--Many Latin American immigrants in the U.S. have stopped sending money back to their families in the past two years, but it hasn’t affected the level of international remittances for the World Council of Credit Union’s (WOCCU) International Remittance Network (IRnet). The Inter-American Development Bank in Washington, D.C., released Wednesday a survey conducted in Spanish in February with 5,000 people (The New York Times May 1). About 50% of the 18.9 million Latino immigrants in the U.S. now regularly send money to relatives in foreign countries, compared with 73% two years ago, the survey indicated. The drop in remittances is a result of downward economic pressures due to the downturn in the low-wage U.S. job market amidst the general economic malaise and the Bush administration’s crackdown on illegal immigrations, the survey said. About 47% of the immigrants surveyed said they did not have legal status. However, while the number of immigrants sending remittances declined, the total dollar amount of remittances rose between 2006 and 2008, the study said. It estimates total remittances sent to Latin America of $45.9 billion in 2008, an increase of $500 million over 2006. WOCCU’s IRnet program overall has seen a flat, unchanged number of remittances over the past year, Greg Moser, vice president of WOCCU services, told News Now. The program serves nine countries--seven in Latin America. The participating countries are Kenya and Jamaica, and in Latin America: Bolivia, Ecuador, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Mexico and Nicaragua. Of the seven countries in Latin America, IRnet remittances declined in two countries and increased in five during the first quarter of 2008--for an overall effect of essentially no change, Moser said. There were 344,000 remittances through the first quarter of 2007, and 340,000 remittances through the first quarter of 2008, he added. There were 1.506 million total IRnet remittances in 2007, Moser said. “We’re monitoring the numbers on a monthly basis to check on any growing trends,” he said. “Our remittance program is unique in that our receiving point for remittances in those countries is credit unions, not a Western Union.” Tiffany Kultgen, WOCCU remittance services manager, said a key time frame is rapidly approaching--the Mother's Day week is the highest remittance time of year in Latin America. “If the remittance decrease continues during the Mother’s Day holiday in Mexico, it would be indicative of an ongoing trend, more than just a dip in remittances,” she said.