Posted on March 6, 2019

No Relationship Between Homicide Rates in Central America and Illegal Border Crossings

Matthew Sussis, Center for Immigration Studies, March 4, 2019

{snip} Groups such as the ACLU and SPLC cite “gang brutality”, “gang violence”, and fear of murder as reasons why the number of illegal, border-crossing migrants from the Northern Triangle (Honduras, Guatemala, and El Salvador) has soared in recent years.

{snip} But the data show no obvious relationship between Central American homicide rates and the number of Central Americans apprehended illegally crossing our border in a year.

In Honduras, murder rates have fallen by over half since 2011 — from 86.5 per 100,000 to 42.8 per 100,000 in 2017. During that same time, the annual number of apprehensions of Hondurans at the U.S.-Mexico border quadrupled, albeit with fluctuations.

Guatemala saw a very similar trend, with murder rates falling from 38.6 per 100,000 to 19.0 per 100,000 between 2011 and 2017. At the same time, the annual number of Guatemalan apprehensions more than tripled — from approximately 18,000 to 66,000.

El Salvador’s murder rate has seen large annual year-to-year swings, as low as 40 per 100,000 in 2013 and then more than doubling to over 100 per 100,000 in 2015. Meanwhile, the number of Salvadoran border apprehensions has risen dramatically, peaking in 2016.


{snip} According to a government poll of Guatemalans, 91 percent are migrating to the United States for economic reasons, and fewer than 1 percent say they are fleeing gangs or violence.

As for the pull factors, loopholes in our asylum laws create strong incentives for migrants to come to the United States — especially with their families. {snip}

Despite what advocacy groups will tell you, these cracks in our asylum laws create far stronger incentives for Central Americans to travel to our southern border than fear of violence.

[Editor’s Note: The original story contains three figures charting violent crime in Honduras, El Salvador, and Guatamala.]