Wednesday, July 24, 2019

Central American Migrants Are ‘Voting With Their Feet’ Despite U.S. Threats

Daniele Volpe for The Wall Street Journal
U.S. aid cuts to Northern Triangle countries aren’t slowing migration because the billions of dollars in remittances migrants in the U.S. send back home is much bigger
President Trump’s government recently announced more than $560 million in aid cuts to Honduras, Guatemala and El Salvador—the Northern Triangle—in a bid to pressure them to slow the flow of migrants to the U.S.
But the plan faces a grim economic reality: aid isn’t nearly as vital as the billions of dollars in remittances sent home by migrants in the U.S.
That gives thousands of poor farmers here in a vast region of tropical forest and farmland in southern Honduras a strong incentive to migrate in search of better wages and economic stability. And it gives the Central American governments little incentive to stop them.
“No amount of economic development aid is going to greatly transform economic opportunity in the Northern Triangle in short order,” said Michael Clemens, an economist and senior fellow at the Center for Global Development, a Washington think tank. “In contrast, remittances are critical across the region to shield families from poverty and from bad shocks from things like crop failures—which drive more migration.”
Remittances totaled $4.8 billion to Honduras, $5.4 billion to El Salvador and $9.5 billion to Guatemala in 2018, according to data compiled by the World Bank, numbers that have steadily risen for more than a decade as more immigrants come and find higher-paying jobs. By contrast, the U.S. sent a total of $2.6 billion to the entire region over the last four fiscal years. 
Photo: Daniele Volpe for The Wall Street Journal
Manuel Sosa, 41 years old, saved $30,000 working construction jobs in New Jersey in the early 2000s, which he used to build a house and a small corn and vegetable farm near the tiny village of La Estancia, where he and his wife raised five children.
But that money is long gone and no new remittances are coming in. Now he earns less than $5 a day—like more than 60% of Hondurans—and last year his family relied on emergency food aid from the U.S. government to cope with a brutal drought.
“If the crops fail again this year, I’ll have to migrate again,” he said.
Hondurans depend on remittances in part because their government spends so little on social programs like schools, hospitals and child care programs. Honduras spent $200 a year on average on health care for each of its citizens in 2016, Guatemala spent $241 and El Salvador, $294, according to the World Bank’s latest figures. The Latin American country average was $583, while the U.S. spent $9,870.
Read the rest of this report from the WSJ HERE.

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