Tuesday, September 29, 2009

"No place like home: Brazilian immigrants leave US for better job prospects

Last month, I blogged about the history and reality of Brazilian immigration to New England's island of Martha's Vineyard. (Incidentally, the relatively heavy incidence of Portuguese, Brazilian, and Cape Verdean immigration to New England suggests the existence of Lusophone migration networks.) This month, the Christian Science Monitor's Taylor Barnes writes about how economic downturns in the United States and economic upturns in Brazil are causing a substantial amount of return migration.

The outflow is leaving its mark on places like downtown Framingham, Mass. The Boston suburb, founded in the 1600s by English settlers, began to acquire its Latin flair in the late 1990s when placards in Portuguese and the green, yellow, and blue of the Brazilian flag began popping up in once-vacant downtown storefronts. By mid-2005, one-quarter of Framingham’s residents was foreign-born, the vast majority of them Brazilian. An estimated 70 percent of the stores downtown are Brazilian-owned.

In the past two years, however, the number of Brazilians living here has dwindled. Local estimates vary widely – up to 40 percent have left, according to the owner of one prominent local flower shop.

“There’s [fewer] immigrants out on the streets,” says Gilberto Yoshida, president of Chang Express, which has been selling plane tickets to South America for 16 years. His company saw a “tremendous spike” in one-way tickets to Brazil sold last winter, which is when seasonal construction and outdoor work tend to dry up. What is clear is that almost no new immigrants are coming in.

“Zero. Zero. Zero. No one is coming from Brazil,” says Manuel Barilio, as he counts the handwritten entries in his spiral notebook where immigrants register to say they’re looking for work. Mr. Barilio, director of the Bom Samaritano social services center in Framingham, says he now gets at most a handful of entries each day.

The change is evident statewide. Massachusetts, once a top destination for Brazilian immigrants, along with Florida, New Jersey, and New York, used to receive about 50,000 a year during the boom years, says Fausto da Rocha, executive director of the Brazilian Immigrant Center in Allston, Mass. In the past two years, about 17,000 of the state’s approximately 200,000 Brazilians have gone back home, he estimates.


Anonymous said...

I've heard suggestions about other groups in America and Europe seeing reverse migration but it seems to be a far less noted phenomenon than the regular immigration issue. Hard to get a sense of the scale at this point.

Anonymous said...

It makes me currious about the effect on the formerly sending nations. Lower remittance funds, and a rising work force is fairly obvious but will these returnees bring many newly acquired skills or cultural practices that might impact their home nations? Will a smaller immigrant community in these Western nations mean that when the world economy eventually improves (though it could be longer than is currently thought) immigration rates will remain lower than they were for some time into the future?

Michael Carr - Veritas Literary said...

Seems like a very good thing. For one, seeing some very large countries like Brazil, India, and China developing helps to reduce international poverty as well as current and future migration. Ten percent of all Mexicans live in the US. Imagine if 10% of all Brazilians, Indians, and Chinese migrated here as well.

Second, hopefully they will be a magnet in turn for other South American nations, who might find Brazil closer and easier than the US. This could dilute the mass migration phenomenon further.

Anonymous said...

Or they could be the genesis of a migration network for New Englanders to Brazil.

People moving from your part of the world is never a good sign

Edward Hugh said...

Interestingly, the situation described in this article seems to be starting to be replicated in Spain.