The “Northern Triangle” immigrants

The term applies to El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras. The Pew Research Center issued a report on how immigration from these countries surged since the Great Recession, while Mexican immigration has lagged. In 2000, legal and illegal Mexican entrants were estimated by Pew Research at 725,000, vs 100,000 from the Northern Triangle. Their respective figures in 2014 were 165,000 and 115,000.  The Northern Triangle countries are much more dependent on their citizens in the U.S. than is Mexico.

Populations: In 2015, 12 million Mexican immigrants lived in the U.S (125 million in the homeland). El Salvador had 1.4 million immigrants in the U.S. in 2015 (6.3 million in the homeland); Guatemala, 980,000(16.25 million); and Honduras, 630,000 (9 million). Some 57 million persons in the U.S. self-identify as Latino. Most have been born here.

Of the 3 million Northern Triangle immigrants living in the U.S. as of 2015, 55% were unauthorized, according to Pew Research Center estimates. By comparison, 24% of all U.S. immigrants were unauthorized immigrants.

Immigrants account for most of the 4.6 million U.S. residents with origins in El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras and are the main driver of the group’s growth. By contrast, two-thirds of Mexican Americans were born in the U.S., and births to U.S. residents are the main contributor to the group’s population growth.

Why Immigrate? Among Guatemalans deported from the U.S., 91% cited work as a main reason for coming, as did 96% of Hondurans deported from the U.S. and 97% of deported Salvadorans. Surveys of Northern Triangle migrants who were apprehended in Mexico while on the way to the U.S., then deported, also found that nearly all said they were moving to find work.

A 2013 Pew Research Center survey in El Salvador found that high shares of people living there – 90% or more – said crime, illegal drugs and gang violence were very big problems in their country. The same survey also found that most Salvadorans not only knew someone already living in the U.S., but also wanted to move to the U.S. themselves.

Remittances: In 2016, according to World Bank estimates, remittances to the three nations totaled $15.9 billion, of which most came from the U.S. Those remittances were the equivalent of about 17% of the total economic output (as measured by gross domestic product) in El Salvador, 11% in Guatemala and 18% in Honduras in 2016.  Remittances to Mexico in 2017 were $27 billion, or about 2.7% of GDP.

A World Bank brief about global remittance trends, published in October, noted that money sent home by Northern Triangle and Mexican migrants went up despite an increase in deportations from the U.S. The increase in remittances “is in part due to possible changes in migration policies. Migrants are sending their savings back home in case they must return.”

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