Pandemic Disrupts Remittances, Leaving Immigrants’ Families Without Lifelines
by Monica Campbell
For years before the coronavirus hit, Sergio Armas hustled to support his parents back home in Nicaragua. By day, he helped manage a small housekeeping business in San Francisco. At night, he served dinners at a popular Italian restaurant with views of the Golden Gate Bridge.
The family breadwinner from afar, he typically wired his parents $300 every month for food, electricity and medicine. His father, 82, is blind and has heart problems. His mother, 68, has a neuromuscular disease and can’t walk without getting winded. They rely on his support to survive.
But it’s been more than two months since Armas, 33, got his last paycheck — and two months since he wired them cash.
“I’m the only one here. I’m the only one with the opportunity to help my family, and I can do nothing right now,” he said recently. “I’m so worried about it. That’s my main concern in this moment.”
Immigrants across the globe share his worries. In normal times, millions of small financial transactions take place daily worldwide when immigrants wire a portion of their earnings to loved ones back home. Last year, these remittances totaled more than $550 billion, according to the World Bank.
Photo courtesy of Justine Camacho.