Op-Ed Considers Guatemalan Emigration: ''Is It Worth It?"

By Kausha Luna on October 31, 2017

An opinion article titled, "Migration A Big Stomping Monster",' published in the Guatemalan news daily Siglo 21, considers the following benefits and costs of Guatemalan emigration to the United States.


  • Remittances. The author argues migration is a "robust" business for Guatemala. Remittances sent to Guatemala from abroad comprise a significant portion of the country's gross domestic product (GDP). Moreover, this source of income has kept prices from skyrocketing, as has been the case in other countries. Additionally, remittances appear to benefit migrants' families, the country, and banks.

However, the author notes, an analysis on migration cannot end there; it requires a more holistic perspective. As such, the author outlines the following negative effects of emigration.


  • Remittances. While there are certain benefits to remittances, the author recognizes that they also create a loss of capital for the migrant-receiving countries.
  • Illegal immigration. One of the biggest costs of migrating to the United States, as the author writes, is the fact that many who choose to leave Guatemala do so illegally. Consequently, as they make their way north, many are assaulted, discriminated against, violated, and/or kidnapped. And when they arrive to the United States they sometimes lack a place to stay, may not know anyone, and lack the resources to lead a quality life.
  • Jobs. The author also acknowledges that immigrants "occupy jobs of native people" and this "generates unemployment". But of more significance to the author, the "real problem" is the exploitation that migrants experience under employers who do not provide good working conditions and/or offer poor wages.
  • Family. Another cost of emigration presented by the author is that of family disintegration. The obvious separation occurs when a family member (typically a male) leaves for the United States. However, the author adds that the disintegration continues for those migrants who return to find that their children have grown up, their spouses have entered other relationships, and that parents and grandparents have died.

In light of these consequences, the author proposes the question "Is it worth it?" The question raised by the author is one that is worth considering in relation to U.S. immigration policies and their capacity to incentivize or deter migration. Over several years, U.S. immigration policies have acted as a magnet, but the costs have largely gone ignored.