Remittances from U.S. immigrants totaled more than $100 billion in 2007. By comparison, individual giving to tax-deductible U.S. charities totaled about $220 billion that same year.
Much of the money remitted comes from struggling U.S. immigrants such as Zenaida Araviza, 42, a single mother. Araviza, who earns $1,300 a month, goes carless, cable-less and cell phone-less in order to send an aunt in the Philippines $200 a month to care for Araviza's mother, who has Alzheimer's.
Carmen De Jesus, the chief financial officer and treasurer of Forex Inc., a remittance agency based in Springfield, Va., said low-income Filipino-Americans such as Araviza were her most generous customers. "The domestic helpers send very, very frequently," she said. "The doctors, less so."
Why are they so generous? Christie Zerrudo, a cashier who handles Filipino remittances at a grocery/restaurant/remittance agency in Arlington, offered this explanation:
"It gives the heart comfort when you sit down at the end of the day, and you know that you did your part," Zerrudo said. "You took care of your family. If you eat here, they eat there, too. It would give you stress if they couldn't. But you love them, they are your family, and your love has had an expression."