Central American immigrants paid $2.2 billion to arrive in the U.S.

Read Time:3 Minute, 44 Second

The annual cost estimates for the past five years, based on surveys of thousands of households in these three Central American countries, paint a stark picture of immigration prices—and who is profiting.

The report released this week by the Immigration Policy Institute, the World Food Program and the MIT Citizen Data Design Lab detailed the motivations and costs of immigration from the region.

According to the report, immigrants from Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador travel outside of legal channels with smugglers, paying approximately US$1.7 billion each year. Immigrants who travel through legal channels in caravans or from these countries alone spend approximately $230 million a year. Those who immigrated through legal channels spent about 240 million U.S. dollars.

Ariel Ruiz, the main co-author of the report and a policy analyst at the Institute for Immigration Policy, said that when you consider that funds can be used elsewhere, such as funding for development and public works projects, a lot of Numbers are especially important.

“It is important not only to talk about costs, but also the potential and opportunities that are being lost,” he said.

An inflatable boat emits lights, which is used to transport migrants from the Mexican side of the Rio Grande to the United States.

Paying smugglers is the most expensive way of immigration

In the past, some researchers have come up with higher numbers when estimating the size of the smuggling industry.

A 2018 UN report estimated that businesses that try to get people into Mexico and the United States illegally are worth about $4 billion a year.

Ruiz said that in order to arrive at the estimates in this week’s report, researchers surveyed thousands of households in the area to determine the average amount they paid when they tried to move to the United States, and then based on the number of people who migrated from El. infer. El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras.

During the smuggling operation that moved migrants across the U.S.-Mexico border

On average, people surveyed reported that immigrants who paid smugglers spent approximately $7,500, including food and travel expenses in addition to smugglers’ expenses.

Immigrants traveling alone or in a caravan spent an average of US$2,900, while immigrants using regular immigration channels such as student visas or refugee settlements spent an average of US$4,500.

The report points out that some people will incur debts that are difficult to repay—especially if immigrants fail to arrive in the United States.

Why do these immigrants travel

Other findings include:

• The vast majority (92%) surveyed stated that economic reasons were behind the decision to move. Climate disasters, violence and food insecurity are other factors. The amount spent on immigration is “a lot of money,” Ruiz said, “but in the long run, when many of them are in such unstable conditions in their country of origin, the return on investment is huge.”

• More and more people are considering migration. In 2021, 43% of households surveyed stated that they are considering international immigration, compared with 8% in 2019. But only a small percentage of families (3%) said they are working on a specific immigration plan.

• Nearly one-third of households (29%) report receiving money from immigrants abroad. They described the money as a lifeline used to pay for living costs and direct expenses.

The bracelets used by smugglers were engraved with the names of immigrants who crossed the border illegally from Mexico to the United States to seek asylum. These bracelets were discarded near the Rio Grande.

The author of the report urges the government to take more measures

A few weeks before the publication of the report, US officials announced that they had arrested more than 1.6 million people for illegally crossing the border in the past year, the highest annual number of arrests on record.
Last year, the number of arrests on the southern border of the United States exceeded 1.6 million, a record high

The organization behind the report recommended that the government take more measures to address the root causes of Central American immigration. This is something that US officials say they are working on, as are other leaders in the region.

But these efforts will take time, Ruiz said.

“To truly solve the root causes of immigration, it will take years or even ten years to truly solve all the problems we see,” he said.

As a starting point, the authors of the report recommended expanding social protection programs and stimulating investment to increase economic opportunities in the region.

Another important suggestion: The United States and other countries provide more legal channels for immigrants from Central America.

According to the report, if this happens, more money spent by immigrants will go to the government instead of secret smuggling networks.

CNN’s Matt Rivers, Louis Chaparro, Natalie Gallon and Geneva Sands contributed to this report.

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