Globe, Latin America, Migrants, United Kingdom

Triggers of the worrying exodus of Latin American emigrants

The United States’ excessive exploitation of Latin America’s resources, and the unequal relationship between them, turned the region into a provider of commodities and cheap labour, creating a “time bomb”: immigration. This time bomb exploded massively and now has the strength of an earthquake that scares Washington policymakers.


Luis Beatón


Attempts to combat the problem have, in the last few months, moved beyond the southern border; it is no longer just the wall built at the behest of former president Donald Trump against those he called “rapists and murderers”. Now the efforts go further.

What is true is that the main cause of the exodus is economic, even though some sectors in the United States try to show a political component which, while still present, is not in essence the principal trigger that leads thousands of people to migrate, very often pushed by the White House’s own policies to take the route chosen by some of their neighbours.

However many agreements there are between, for example, the President of the United States, Joe Biden, and the Mexican President, Andrés Manuel López Obrador, who propose “to work together to immediately implement concrete measures to significantly reduce irregular border crossings”, other policies that tackle the root causes of the migratory problem are needed.

Plans to provide employment opportunities abroad for Salvadoran citizens are barely a drop in the ocean. The beneficiaries number no more than a few hundred, while those who every month choose the long and dangerous path of illegal immigration are several thousand, according to statistics.

It is enough to observe the United States’ immigration authorities’ data to get an idea of the problem. More than 500,000 immigrants were deported and another 137,000 received deportation orders in the first half of the 2024 financial year in the United States. Despite being a palpable reality, the actions to tackle the migration crisis do not go to its roots. A recent report by the International Organisation for Migration (IOM) highlighted that more than 70% of women who returned to El Salvador migrated for economic reasons.

The institution conducted a series of interviews which revealed that economic reasons are the chief motivation this year for Salvadoran women to migrate to the United States, Mexico or other countries.

Along the same lines, a decrease in direct foreign investment (DFI) can be seen in many Latin American nations, something which indicates that there is not a policy to tackle the principal cause of increasing migration.

Moreover, Washington’s policies seeking to strangle peoples and create humanitarian crises, hunger and scarcities, stand out as triggers of the migratory exodus.

Figures and migrants

A recent survey by the Doctor Guillermo Manuel Ungo Foundation (Fundaungo) found that 23% of El Salvador’s population intends to migrate in the next three years, a large figure that would be added to the almost two million Salvadorans present legally in the nation to the north. Most of those consulted between 11th March and 16th April cited economic reasons as their primary motivation for it, and more men than women expressed their desire to leave the country.

The main reason for migrating, according to those who indicated an intention to do so, approximately six in ten people (58.2%), is to find work, followed by family reunification (30.9%), problems with democracy (5.3%) and, curiously, scarcely 0.8% allege violence as the primary cause.

The United States’ insufficient measures

The United States will allocate US$ 578m in “humanitarian aid” to Latin American countries as part of its strategy to combat irregular migratio.

The US$ 578m will be used for “humanitarian assistance for development and economic assistance to support partner countries and help communities to…expand lawful pathways [of migration] and integration in the region”, according to the official statement.

Further, it is proposed to expand alliances to apply the law with the aim of deterring irregular migration, including sanctions for the networks that incite it, among other proposed actions. Figures show the worsening of the migration crisis. In the first quarter of 2024 alone, according to data from the United States Border Patrol, 17,720 Salvadoran migrants were intercepted by the Mexican authorities. The figures show that in just three months, the Mexican government intercepted 46% of the record 782,176 irregular migrants that it detected in the whole of 2023, when this flow increased 77% year-on-year.

Latin America is now rivalled by African, Arab and Asian nations for the number of illegal immigrants whose principal trigger for migration, apart from violent conflict, is the worsening economic situation.

Countries like Honduras (37,323), Ecuador (36,956), Guatemala (36,934), Colombia (21,534), Nicaragua (18,711), El Salvador (17,720), Haiti (16,791) and Cuba (10,464) are among the main sources of illegal and legal immigrants to the United States.

(Translated by Philip Walker – Email: – Photos: Pixabay

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