Vast Majority Of Hondurans Immigrate To US For Economic Reasons, Not To Escape Violence

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Will Racke Immigration and Foreign Policy Reporter
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Hondurans immigrate to the U.S. largely for economic reasons and not to flee violence, according to a new survey conducted by a social research center in that country.

The report from the Reflection, Research, and Communication Team (ERIC-SJ in Spanish), a Jesuit-affiliated research group, polled a representative sample of Honduran citizens on questions about the country’s political, social and economic situation in 2017.

Several questions concerned migration, particularly the reasons why Hondurans would want to leave for another country. Honduran immigration to the U.S. has come under more scrutiny in recent weeks, amid reports that a caravan of mostly Honduran asylum-seekers is making its way north through Mexico with the aim of reaching a U.S. port of entry.

Of the respondents to the survey that had a family member who had emigrated from Honduras in the last four years, 83 percent said the relative did so due to underemployment or a lack of economic opportunity. By contrast, 11 percent left due to violence and insecurity.

A similar survey conducted by ERIC-SJ in 2015 found that 78 percent emigrated for economic reasons and 17 percent fled violence.

The ERIC-SJ report calls into question claims made by many pro-immigration groups that Honduran migrants have no choice but to come to the U.S. because of rampant violence at home. Coverage of the migrant caravan in the New York Times and other prominent national news outlets, for example, has focused largely on people who say they are fleeing violence and persecution by criminal gangs.

But Hondurans are much more likely to emigrate for economic reasons than out of concern for their personal safety, according to the ERIC-SJ report. One question in the survey asked, “Do you know if any acquaintance, relative, or neighbor has emigrated due to violence?”

Of those who responded, 67 percent said they didn’t know anyone who had left because of violence. Just over 31 percent responded that they did know someone who had emigrated for that reason.

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Similar results have been found in Guatemala, which along with Honduras is part of the infamously violent Northern Triangle of Central America. Last year, the U.N. International Organization for Migration conducted a study of Guatemalan immigrants in the U.S. and found that the vast majority — 91 percent —  had come for economic reasons.

Such findings illustrate the need for immigration authorities to more closely scrutinize asylum claims made by Central American migrants who arrive at the U.S.-Mexico border, says Mark Krikorian, the executive director of the Center for Immigration Studies.

“This survey, conducted with the support of the European Union and the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, suggests that few, if any, of those heading to the U.S. border from Honduras are refugees,” Krikorian said in a statement, referring to the ERIC-SJ report.

“If they nonetheless pass the ‘credible fear’ interview that is the first step in an asylum claim, they will likely be released from custody and join the large illegal alien community already living in the U.S,” he added.

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