The economics of smuggling people into the U.S.

I’ve found at long last an informative overview of smuggling of Central Americans into the U.S. The Wall Street Journal reported, drawing largely from a November 2021 study which I cite at the end.

Persons in El Salvador, Guatamala and Honduras who have entered the U.S. within the past five years report that 15% migrated to the U.S. legally, 22% irregular without a smuggler, and 55% with a smuggler.

Among the migrants using a smuggler it took two attempts to make it to the destination country. Those who traveled through regular migration channels including temporary tourist and employment visas, many overstayed their visas.

Guatemalan migrants are most likely to rely on smugglers 78% — compared to Salvadorians 64% and Hondurans 25%

The average smuggling cost is $7,500. Compare that with wages in the U.S. of dishwashers about $14/hr or $25,000 annually, and for a landscaping laborer $17/hr or $30,000. The average wage in Guatemala City is annually $6,000. Adjusted for purchasing power, that annual wage is $9,700.

This means that a Guatemalan worker by coming to the U.S. and earning $30,000, after tax and other wage deductions of 30%, can by keeping expenses low afford to remit $300 a month while building up cash savings.

It could take between 9 and 11 months for Central Americans to pay the full expenses of migrating irregularly with a smuggler and between five and eight months to pay the expenses associated with regular migration. For those who did not make it to the United States or who are repatriated to the countries of origin, paying back loans and expenses present an even greater challenge.

The percentage of households that reported a member of migrating recently to the United States: El Salvador 15% Guatemala 12% Honduras 12%.

29% of households reported regularly receiving remittances from abroad. In Guatemala it was a monthly amount of $350 while in Honduras and El Salvador it was 170 and $150, respectively.

There is an overwhelming demand for employment opportunities outside the countries. Violence, insecurity and natural disasters have been complex and launch it standing triggers of migration, but economic factors for where participants’ primary motivation for emigrating.

I have posted on the American basin of foreign labor. I have posted here on the real wage gains for a low formally educated person coming to the U.S.

Here is the primary source of information: Charting a new regional course of action: the complex motivations and cost of central American migration. Co-authored by Migration Policy Institute, World Food Program, and Civic Data Design Lab, November 2021

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