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The Gift Exchange that Keeps Giving: America’s Immigrants

The holiday season is here and that means gift giving time. As many Americans hit the shopping malls or online stores to look for that perfect gift for their loved ones, gift giving is different for about 40 million of America’s immigrants. Not only do they buy gifts for families who may be living with them, but they are more likely to be sending remittances--personal flows of money sent across international borders--to fellow family members in their countries of origin.

A recent World Bank study estimates that globally $483 billion will be sent as remittances in 2011, four times the amount of official development assistance (ODA). As the largest immigrant-receiving country in the world, U.S. immigrants send about $48.3 billion abroad which is 10 percent of total world-wide remittances--the largest amount of any country.  Numerous studies have shown that remittances help increase household investments in education, entrepreneurship, health, and ultimately reduce poverty in the developing world. Our immigrants may be America’s strongest weapon in the fight against global poverty. 

This past Sunday marked International Migrants Day, the celebration of the contribution and sacrifices that many international migrants make to both migrant-destination and origin countries. America’s immigrants provide needed skills for U.S. state and regional economies, while at the same time providing school tuition or health expenditures for a relative in another country. 

Bottom line: Immigrants are “economic ambassadors” that contribute to the growth of two economies simultaneously. They are the gift that keeps giving to America and the World.