At least 67% of the 11 million undocumented immigrants living in the US are Mexicans and Central Americans

Migrants from Central America pay smugglers $1.7 billion a year in hopes of escaping poverty or getting a better job in the United States, according to a large-scale migration study published Tuesday.

The project by the Migration Policy Institute, the World Food Program and the Civic Data Design Lab at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology found that migrants paid a total of $2.2 billion.

And 92 percent of those surveyed cited economic factors as the main driver for wanting to leave the home — rather than climate disaster, violence or food insecurity.

The report is the latest contribution to the debate on how the US should manage immigration.

The Biden administration is under immense pressure to do more. Last month, Customs and Border Protection revealed that detentions at the border had reached the highest level in 20 years.

The report found that 55 percent of the most recent migrants hired smugglers to help them, paying out $1.7 billion a year — the bulk of the total $2.2 billion spent by people trying to to find a better life.

“That’s an extreme amount,” said Sarah Williams, an associate professor of technology in MIT’s Department of Urban Studies and Planning, and one of the authors of the report.

“That $2.2 billion is all paid by the migrants themselves, so the risks, both in terms of debt and personal risk, are borne by the migrant.”

Economy is the main factor driving people to leave El Salvador, Guatemala and El Salvador, according to the report, based on nearly 5,000 migrant households and an online survey of 6,000 people

A new report from the Migration Policy Institute, the World Food Program and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology's Civic Data Design Lab finds that Central American migrants pay about $1.7 billion each year to smugglers seeking a better life.

A new report from the Migration Policy Institute, the World Food Program and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s Civic Data Design Lab finds that Central American migrants pay about $1.7 billion each year to smugglers seeking a better life.

The report — based on interviews with nearly 5,000 migrant-sending households and an online survey of another 6,000 in El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras — found that migrants using the mainstream channels spend an average of $4,500.

Those traveling alone or with a caravan spent $2900.

But using a smuggler raised the cost to about $7,500.

Still, the data shows that interest in migration is growing. In the past two years, the number of people who reported migrating has increased more than fivefold, from eight percent in 2019 to 43 percent this year.

However, only three percent said they were making concrete plans to leave.

Their main reasons were economic, such as lack of money for necessities, need for a better job or working conditions.

The pandemic has also exacerbated the push factors. The report cited a United Nations World Food Program study that found that households in all three countries had suffered income losses.

Climate and environment, violence and family reunification were

“Ultimately, the heart of the matter is economics, and this is where policymakers should focus their energies,” Williams said.

“The root cause of migration is that people don’t have enough money to meet their basic needs.”

The wave of migrants arriving at the southern border has increased the pressure on President Biden and his administration.

Data released last month by Customs and Border Protection showed that 1.7 million migrants were arrested at the border in fiscal year 2021.

That surpasses the previous record set in 2000 when the agency recorded 1.64 million arrests.

Biden has put Vice President Kamala Harris in charge of working with Central American countries to stop the flow, while critics of the administration have pointed to border security as key.

The Western States Sheriffs’ Association, which represents 17 states, is demanding the removal of Secretary of Homeland Security, Alejandro Mayorkas, for his handling of the border crisis.

It issued a statement of ‘no confidence’ in Mayorkas and warned of a ‘complete and utter failure’ in efforts to stop illegal crossings.

“U.S. sheriffs have watched in disbelief as the southern border has turned into an invisible line in the sand,” the association said in a letter signed by its president, Sheriff Leo Dutton of Lewis and Clark County, Montana, and retired Sheriff James Pond. its executive director.

“Fire officers have been relegated to residential unit childcare supervisors and if they try to act, they are monitored, placed on administrative leave and investigated for political gain.”

The report highlights the push factors of migration from Central America but aims to provide governments with a blueprint to address the root causes, including initiatives related to economic recovery, livelihoods and food security for people most likely to migrate irregularly.

“Given the repeated cyclical patterns of increasing Central American migration northwards, it is clearly time for a strategy beyond unilateral enforcement actions to recognize not only the drivers of migration, but also the nuanced context in El Salvador, Guatemala. and Honduras that smart investment and community-strengthening policies need to be addressed,” said MPI chairman Andrew Selee.


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