The Untold Emigration from Central America

By Jerry Kammer and Jerry Kammer on June 7, 2012

We've been hearing a great deal of speculation lately that emigration from Mexico to the United States has reached an inflection point. Some observers say that demographic changes in Mexico are combining with greater economic opportunity there to bring a definitive end to the four decades of mass emigration that have transferred about 10 percent of Mexico's population to the United States.

What we haven't heard much about in the U.S. press is the ongoing exodus from Central America. I have read several reports in the Mexican press, however, estimating that 300,000 Central Americans are crossing Mexico every year on their way to the United States.

Univision anchorman Jorge Ramos repeats that number in his column in Wednesday's Reforma newspaper, published in Mexico City. Ramos's column highlights the threats against Mexican priest Alejandro Solalinde, who operates a shelter that offers refuge to Central Americans.

As Ramos notes, "Many are robbed, kidnapped, or raped" in Mexico, where they are preyed upon by organized crime, corrupt government officials, and common thugs. Nevertheless, they keep coming, subjecting themselves to such misery in Mexico in order to escape what must be an even greater misery back home.

I keep hearing about the ongoing influx from Central America from immigrants in the Washington area. Last week, a janitor from Honduras told me that crime, poverty, and violence in his native country have accelerated the flow. Over the weekend, a Salvadoran who manages a restaurant said that gang violence and kidnapping aimed at families that receive remittances from the United States make many people want to get out.

There is a terrible process of social disintegration underway in Central America. This is a significant story, with consequences that extend across borders, including our own. Unfortunately, it receives scant attention in the U.S. press, whose reporting ranks and travel budgets have been so badly diminished by the Internet and the recession.