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Feb 3, 2009 3:43 PMPublication: The East Hampton Press

Bad economy forces some migrant workers home

Feb 3, 2009 3:43 PM

Some local immigrants have returned to their native countries or are planning to leave because of the lack of work. While most people in the immigrant community are staying, the flow of their money, which usually travels from East Hampton to Latin America via money wires, has reversed.

In the communications hub called Latin Express, a hair salon, Elsa Crespo, who works behind the counter and hails from Ecuador, said on Thursday she thinks that about 70 percent of the immigrant community in the area is without work and that people are starting to leave.

But the main change she has noticed is that people are receiving money wires, when “before they were always sending money to their home countries,” she said in Spanish.

“It used to be that, at most, there would be one person in a month who was receiving money. Now what I’m seeing is 10 people per day who are receiving money from their home countries. No one is sending money home.”

Roberto Cabinawa, of Ecuador, was buying a phone card Thursday. “Many people have left,” he said in Spanish.

Ms. Crespo agreed. “Look how many rooms are available,” she said, pointing at the bulletin board near the door full of ads offering rooms. “It’s much more than normal. Every day people are coming in with rooms for rent—there have never been this many. It’s a signal that people have left.”

Not far away, Ricardo Merchán, who immigrated to East Hampton from Cuenca, Ecuador, was leaning against a fence at the East Hampton train station.

“I haven’t had work in five months,” he said. “This is the first year that I haven’t worked.” He’s been here for three. “I’m buying a ticket to fly home for March or the beginning of April.”

His family in Ecuador had wired him $2,000 the day before, he said. “Usually, I’m the one sending money home. But life is too difficult here now—there’s just no work.”

Mr. Merchán and several other Ecuadorians were waiting in the “shape-up”—the informal site in front of the train station where immigrant day laborers gather, risking a ticket for loitering and hoping to get picked up for work. Others said they were planning to tough it out, unlike Mr. Merchán, but they all said they had a few friends who had left.

Manuel Matute, also standing in the shape-up, said that he used to send $200 home each week to his family in Cuenca, out of his $600 a week salary. But last week, he lost his carpentry job. “My family knows that I have no permanent work now. I’m very worried. Now I have to stand here on the corner and wait and hope. I plan to stay another year and see what happens, take it day by day.”

But some people have simply decided that it’s not worth it to stay here any longer, according to Isabel Sepúlveda de Scanlon, the president of the Organización Latino Americana (OLA) of Eastern Long Island. “Many friends have said they know someone who has left or is leaving to go back to their home country,” Ms. Sepúlveda said. “Business owners are cutting pay. Cabaña Latina has laid people off.”

For some immigrants, while the bad economy has left them without work, they also see it as a blessing in disguise because it means that going home is their best option. Marcelo Guevara, of Southampton, recently lost his job and decided to go home because he could find no other work. But he said he’s thrilled that he will finally get to see his family after too many years,

“I came here when I was 18 and a half,” he said, “Can you imagine? It’ll be the first time I’m going to see my family in almost 9 years.” Last weekend he went shopping for gifts to bring back to Ecuador.

Returning home is not even an option for some immigrants, said Ronny Nieves, also of Ecuador, while he stood drinking coffee in front of the Hampton Marketplace on Monday morning, waiting for work, as he has every day for the last three months.

“You can’t leave because of all the expenses—you just have enough to get by,” Mr. Nieves said. “So you just stay put because there is no other option. From November until now, I’ve had no work. Last year, at the beginning of the year, I worked at least two or three days a week. There always had been work in the past, even when it slowed down in the winter. But this year is different.”

Sister Briege Lavary of the Hispanic Apostolate in Southampton said that many immigrants have been coming to her, asking for rental and heating assistance.

“Some have no food,” she said. “The situation is really desperate. All our organizations are really stretched. There are many stories of phones being turned off and people with no oil. I have people come in here who are hungry.”

She said she had heard of people who had gone to New York City and come back because they didn’t find any work there, as they hoped they would.

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Are we talking immigrants, or illegal immigrants? The writer of the article should have clarified.
By The_Realist (6), Sagaponack on Feb 3, 09 5:30 PM
I don't understand why Mexico and other Latin American countries don't send flights to New York City to bring some of these immigrants home to their families, since these people have contributed to their local economies abroad by sending money there consistently. Also, you would think all these conservative groups would want to do something good (most claim to be Christians) and help send these people back to their families. Some immigrants would be leaving which is what conservatives want and those ...more
By Louienyc79 (1), Bronx on Feb 3, 09 9:54 PM
this is the inevitable problem.....what happens when the work dries up???????? Are these people contributing in any way to the economy ......or are they draining local resources??? Are there less babies being produced, and of those babies do you really think those parents want to take the kids back "home"?????
By eastender09 (22), southampton on Feb 4, 09 12:08 PM
at least they have another home to run to.what about the rest of us stuck here to foot the bill?i don't have a second home in another country to run to when times are tuff.dont them fool you those guys at 7/11 own many homes in there native countrys they learned to cry to get free hand outs.i know of at least ten that have 5 or 6 homes in there native country and here they live in a basement
with sheets for walls sending the loot south.now that the loot has run dry time to go home kick back ...more
By pinga (90), hamptonbays on Feb 4, 09 4:16 PM
Doesnt anyone care that these people BROKE the law? Now that they can't find work they have no use for the Unitied States!. They send money home and they don't pay any taxes here. Wake up everyone. It's time for "change".
Hmmmmmm does that phrase sound familiar?????????????????
By DonnaBalchu@aol.com (2), Southampton on Feb 4, 09 6:34 PM
I totally agree with you Donna. How about the fact that they have hurt local contractors like me by not only being here illegally they are operating as a business without liability or compensation insurance like the rest of us. We as citizens have to jump through dozens of hoops to operate as a business and at the end of the year we ahve to file income taxes . These people are not required to do any of that and yet tax dollars go to give them food stamps, housing allowances, education for their ...more
By Vbalchunas (11), Southampton on Feb 4, 09 6:49 PM
Shouldn't our gov't be able to track money sent out of the country by wire.See where it came from and apply taxes to it.
I pay sales tax, payroll tax, social security, and every other tax I have to being an employer, I pay my taxes because I have to and I remember to pay them becauase I have to.
By shock (70), whb on Feb 4, 09 7:51 PM
well hasn't this article generate some interest, In answer to shock about the taxes the answer is that the government has a vehicle to collect taxes. It is the Federal Wire protocol, I'm not sure of the name but all wire transactions are sent via Federal wire service, just like if you win a large amount at the horse track the taxes are immediately collected and forward via the same protocol, but like anything else your government including Southampton politicians have no principles. We are ...more
By tom (53), Hampton Bays on Feb 4, 09 10:28 PM
Before all of you bleeding hearts out there feel that somehow we as legal citizens should now be responsible to try and help criminals who hopped the fence because they are un-employed think about this. I have been in their countries at least 30 times. I have brought over 1500 people with me to volunteer to help them. When you enter their countries, you don't get in unless you enter with the right documentation and come in through the front door. If you think for 1 minute that you could go there ...more
By Vbalchunas (11), Southampton on Feb 5, 09 6:01 AM
The liberal media has long ago stopped any attempt whatsoever at reporting the news. If i steal a car and keep it for say 3 years with no problems. One day i get caught in this car that i have maintained and cleaned and cared for as if it were my own. Should i be allowed to keep it and get in no trouble because of my positive history with this car? Too extreme an example? Feel free to change it to say unpaid parking tickets.Or hooking up the cable for the tv on the pole(old school). Unpaid tickets? ...more
By double-D (96), southampton on Feb 5, 09 9:02 PM
Well, it sounds like the cross-burners are out here in force today. Yes, illegal immigration is illegal. Yes, they need to take responsibility for themselves. But I think you are missing the point of the article, which is really about the sad state of our economy, especially in the service sector, and the effect it has had on the local population of (illegal) immigrants. Before you start reciting Lou Dobbs, please remember that these are human beings who came here in search of a better life ...more
By HEJIRANYC (32), Sag Harbor on Feb 6, 09 4:25 PM
The problem with these immigrants is that they didn't come to this country to embrace it they came here to exploit it and we as a country let it happen. Thats the plain, hard truth. Now that they've had the children born here on our dime, used food stamps to feed their kids meanwhile sending the all mighty dollar out of the country. Now the money well has dried up and off they go laughing all the way to some South American bank. Oh boo hoo for them. Let the Liberals cry all they want. And why is ...more
By BigL11946 (29), Hampton Bays on Feb 6, 09 5:37 PM
The bright side: there will be a bit more freelance work available for all the folks who cannot flee to another country, or community.
By hellolotte (5), Sag Harbor on Feb 6, 09 10:26 PM
It is about the sad state of our economy.
But all the ILLEAGAL RATS will abandon ship as fast as they crossed the river and crawled underneath the barbed wire. Leaving real Americans to weather the storm. A slumping economy is the best Illegal Immigration control we have right now. It sad to say but maybe it's for the best!!!!
By Dragharbor1980 (9), North Haven on Feb 6, 09 10:57 PM
I am constantly amazed by the hatred and ignorance that exists in Southampton.
By dagdavid (646), southampton on Feb 7, 09 6:43 PM
Ignorance? Anything but. There were lots of insightful things said onthis forum.
By aastro (1), New York on Feb 8, 09 12:18 PM
if we immigrants go back home! this country sinks! because Americans are lazy and do not like to work!
By denny (2), southampton on Feb 8, 09 4:32 PM
The reason why the economy is the way iit is, is because of all the free money taken from the iIllegal immigrants. They are here illegally remember? They are breaking the law and we are footing the bill.
By dbnyeve (19), wading river on Feb 8, 09 10:17 PM
I know this will bring out the liberal fury, but here goes........my father survived the Great Depression, was a pilot in WW2, worked until 6 wks before he died (paid taxes on it, too!) at 85 and lived by the motto: AMERICA-LOVE IT OR LEAVE IT. Adios, amigos!
By EQme (112), East Quogue on Feb 9, 09 11:10 AM
Well we finally have the solution on how to get rid of 12,000,000 illegals in "OUR" country. Once they all go back home because there is nothing left to rape in this country we then can put up the fence on "OUR" borders which will put lots of Americans to work and then keep the law breakers out. Then it will allow those "HONEST" immigrants who are knocking on the front door of "OUR" country to gain "LEGAL" passage. The news has been making a big stink about the lady with octuplets and that most ...more
By Vbalchunas (11), Southampton on Feb 10, 09 5:34 AM
Well my comment is not spoken out of ignorance & hatred. I am just tired of the immigrants (illegal or not) sending our American money abroad! And thats the ONLY reason they are here!!! This is one of the many reasons are ecomony is in the shape it is in. We need to circulate our money here in the U.S.! Here we are getting poorer and there they are getting richer. Its just like issue with gasoline. The foreign countries are getting rich off of us while we are drowning. Like someone stated above, ...more
By Sam (252), Westhampton Beach on Feb 13, 09 2:29 PM
gurney's, new year's eve, celebration, montauk