Immigration From Mexico Drops, but Increases From Central America

(CN) — Immigration to the United States from the so-called Northern Triangle of El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras rose by 25 percent in eight years, the Pew Research Center reported Thursday.

Citing better work and economic opportunities but also fear of widespread crime and violence in their home countries, immigrants both legal and illegal have been entering the United States from the Northern Triangle in sharply rising numbers.

The estimated 12 million Mexican immigrants living in the U.S. in 2015 far outnumbered those from the Northern Triangle, but the three Central American nations have grown in significance as a source of immigrants, according to the Pew report. In the eight years from 2007 to 2015, the number of immigrants from Mexico dropped by 6 percent while immigration from El Salvador rose by 19 percent, from Guatemala by 31 percent, and from Honduras by 32 percent. Both El Salvador and Honduras have extraordinarily high murder rates.

Pew estimates that of the 3 million Northern Triangle immigrants living in the U.S. in 2015, 55 percent unauthorized, and 25 percent had temporary protection under the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals and Temporary Protected Status programs. The Temporary Protected Status permits are set to expire on March 9, 2018 for people from El Salvador and on July 5, 2018 for people from Honduras.

The three Central American nations were also points of origin for many of the thousands of unaccompanied children arrested at the U.S. border since 2013.

Northern Triangle immigrants overwhelmingly cited work and economic opportunities as their reason for emigrating to the U.S., but many also spoke in surveys about crime and persecution in their home countries as a motivating factor.

In 2014, Honduras had the highest murder rate in the world: 74.6 homicides per 100,000 residents. El Salvador ranked second in the world that year, and by 2016 El Salvador’s murder rate had risen to 91.2 per 100,000 people.

In a 2013 Pew survey in El Salvador, more than half of the respondents said that they were afraid to walk alone at night within a kilometer of their home.

Pew found that Northern Triangle immigrants sent a significant amount of money home to their countries of origin. The $16 billion that migrants sent home to the three countries in 2016 represented the equivalent of 18 percent of the gross domestic product in Honduras, 17 percent in El Salvador, and 11 percent in Guatemala.

An immigration attorney with decades of experience in El Salvador and in U.S. courts, told Courthouse News that those numbers indicate that increased deportation from the United States may drive more immigration from Central America, as families lose a steady source of income on which they rely.

Despite the large number of immigrants who arrived in the past decade, most immigrants from El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras have lived in the U.S. for 10 years or more, as is true for the majority of all U.S. immigrants. In 2015, 78 percent of immigrants from El Salvador, 71 percent from Guatemala and 68 percent from Honduras had lived in the U.S. for 10 years or more.

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