How U.S. Border Policies Led to Child Labor and Home-Country Financial Instability

Parsing Immigration Policy, Episode 107

By Mark Krikorian and David Stoll on June 1, 2023

Listen to "How U.S. Border Policies Led to Child Labor and Home-Country Financial Instability" on Spreaker.


The Guatemalan Highlands have a low homicide rate and strong family and community structure. For those in this region, immigration to the United States is an economic decision and usually means paying smugglers to send a teenage family member to find a job and sending money home – in the past couple of years under the guise of seeking asylum. But the strong appeal of migration northward has had a staggering impact on communities, destabilizing the family structure, putting the minors in harm’s way, and causing financial harm.

Dr. David Stoll, a professor of anthropology at Middlebury College, has spent decades doing field research in Guatemala in the Mayan town of Nebaj. He has documented the migration stream to the United States from 1997-2005 and the crushing impact of the collapse of jobs in the U.S. in 2006. The U.S. jobs had been the only hope for most to pay back the high-interest smuggler loans. The result was a devastating town financial crash that included many families losing their homes.

Stoll and Mark Krikorian, the Center’s executive director and host of Parsing Immigration Policy, discuss the U.S. policies and loopholes that encourage Guatemalan families to send their work-ready teenagers to the U.S., as described in Stoll’s recent article, “Why Are Underage Central Americans in US Factories?”

In his closing commentary, Krikorian highlights a recent blog post by Andrew Arthur, "What’s Biden Doing with Migrants at the Ports of Entry?".


Mark Krikorian is the Executive Director of the Center for Immigration Studies.


Dr. David Stoll is a Professor of Anthropology at Middlebury College


Why Are Underage Central Americans in US Factories?

Book: El Norte or Bust!: How Migration Fever and Microcredit Produced a Financial Crash in a Latin American Town

Remittances as Rents in a Guatemalan Town: Debt, Asylum, the U.S. Job Market, and Vulnerability to Human Trafficking

Book: Enrique's Journey Enrique's Journey: The Story of a Boy's Dangerous Odyssey to Reunite with His Mother

What’s Biden Doing with Migrants at the Ports of Entry?

An Overwhelmed Border Patrol Is Missing an Epidemic of Runners and ‘Got-aways’


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Intro Montage

Voices in the opening montage:

  • Sen. Barack Obama at a 2005 press conference.
  • Sen. John McCain in a 2010 election ad.
  • President Lyndon Johnson, upon signing the 1965 Immigration Act.
  • Booker T. Washington, reading in 1908 from his 1895 Atlanta Exposition speech.
  • Laraine Newman as a "Conehead" on SNL in 1977.
  • Hillary Clinton in a 2003 radio interview.
  • Cesar Chavez in a 1974 interview.
  • House Speaker Nancy Pelosi speaking to reporters in 2019.
  • Prof. George Borjas in a 2016 C-SPAN appearance.
  • Sen. Jeff Sessions in 2008 comments on the Senate floor.
  • Charlton Heston in "Planet of the Apes".