Posted on December 2, 2021

Migrants From Three Countries Paid $2.2 Billion Trying to Reach the US

Catherine E. Shoichet, CNN, November 24, 2021

Migrants from Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador spend $2.2 billion every year trying to reach the United States, and most of that money goes to smugglers, according to a new report.

The estimate of annual costs over the past five years, derived from surveys of thousands of households in those three Central American countries, paints a stark picture of the price of migration — and who’s profiting.


The report — released this week by the Migration Policy Institute, the World Food Programme and the Civic Data Design Lab at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology — details motivations and costs of migration from the region.

Migrants from Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador traveling outside legal channels with smugglers pay about $1.7 billion annually, the report says. {snip}


In the past some researchers have arrived at even higher figures when estimating the size of the smuggling industry.

A 2018 UN report estimated the business of trying to get people into Mexico and the US illegally was worth about $4 billion annually.


On average, those surveyed reported that migrants who paid smugglers spent about $7,500, including the cost of food and travel in addition to smugglers’ fees.


Among the other findings:

  • The vast majority (92%) surveyed said economic reasons were behind decisions to migrate. Climate disasters, violence and food insecurity were other factors noted. The amount spent on migration is “a lot of money,” Ruiz says, “but in perspective, the return on the investment is significant when so many of them are in such precarious conditions in their countries of origin.”
  • More people are considering migration. In 2021, survey respondents in 43% of households said they were considering international migration, compared to 8% in 2019. But only a fraction of households — 3% — reported they were making concrete plans to migrate.
  • Nearly a third of households (29%) reported receiving money from migrants abroad. They described that money as a lifeline used to meet subsistence costs and immediate expenses.