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New record for money sent to Mexico by Mexicans abroad

Migrant farm workers from Mexico finish a long day of harvesting organic vegetables at Grant Family Farms on Sept. 3, 2010, in Wellington, Colorado.

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MEXICO CITY -- Mexicans living abroad sent home almost $27 billion in 2016, the highest yearly figure on record, the central bank reported on Wednesday.

The remittances rose 8.8 percent, from $24.78 billion in 2015 to 26.97 billion last year.

The central bank said almost all the money was sent to Mexico by electronic transfers, though about $600 million continues to arrive in cash or by money orders.

Remittances have become Mexico’s most important source of foreign income after auto exports of almost $34 billion per year. Remittances have far surpassed the $15.6 billion Mexico earns from oil exports and the $17.5 billion in tourism income Mexico received in 2015.

U.S. President Trump has suggested the U.S. might retain some remittances to pay for a wall between the countries, a project Mexico opposes.

It is unclear whether migrants sent more money home because they feared possible future restrictions on the transfers or whether they were taking advantage of the dollar’s higher purchasing power in Mexico. The Mexican peso dropped 19 percent in value against the dollar in 2016.