Central American Towns Empty as Migrants Rush to U.S. Border Loopholes

Honduras migrants leave the shelter they were staying at, after temporary permission to stay in Mexico, in Mapastepec, Chiapas state, Mexico, Sunday, April 28, 2019. This week, Central American migrants who traveled in caravans to the U.S. have begun receiving a Mexican government ID that allows them to stay for …
AP Photo/Moises Castillo
NEIL MUNRO

Guatemala’s towns are emptying out as a growing number of migrants head north to accept the Democratic Party’s offer of open-border loopholes and low-wage jobs, say a growing number of local reports.

Roughly one percent of Guatemala’s population has migrated to the United States’ border since September 2018, according to the Department of Homeland Security. That adds up to roughly 170,000 migrants, and roughly one-third of those migrants come from the neighboring rural districts of Huehuetenango and San Marcos.

The result of this U.S. government policies is that many villages are with empty homes, fatherless families, absent men, and minimal investment. The Wall Street Journal reported:

COLOTENANGO, Guatemala—Gloria Velásquez is used to saying goodbye. Four of her six siblings have migrated to the U.S. and she, too, is thinking about heading north with her 9-year-old daughter.

Ms. Velásquez said her four siblings in the U.S. are encouraging her to join them. Her daughter Helen Ixchel likes to teach language and mathematics to fellow children. She wants to learn English and become a teacher.

“I’m a bit scared [about going to the U.S.] after hearing all the news about the suffering of migrants at the border. But it’s my daughter’s greatest dream,” Ms. Velásquez said.

This massive loss of young people minimizes opposition to the country’s weak government and deters foreign investment in the nation. Without the promise of foreign investment and new jobs in the nation’s main cities, the next cohort of young men rationally look north for jobs.

“Santa Rosa fits the DHS statistics perfectly,” says a May 17 report from Sara Carter. Under the headline “Guatemalan Ghost Towns,” Carter wrote:

After a nearly two-hour ride up a windy mountain road from the capital the sound of salsa music greeted our SUV as it pulled along side one of the main roads. The music wafted from a small make-shift cafe that was empty of both customers and workers.
No cars. Few people. Two dogs. It was for the most part a ghost town.

“I can say roughly 60 percent of this town is gone,” said Jose Manuel, who had spent his day sitting along side the curb in front of furniture repair shop.

Many more migrants are preparing to travel through Mexico to accept the Democrats’ invitation of legal loopholes in the border fence. A recent survey by U.S. and Guatemalans shows that roughly one million Guatemalans — plus many of their children — want to make the trip soon.

“Entire communities are losing their children — and their future — to migration,” said a report from the non-profit Pulitzer Center. The report delicately dances around the reality that progressive Democrats and judges offer the catch-and-release loopholes to the migrants who bring their children. So many migrants bring their children and working-age youths on the dangerous trip to the border:

HUHUETENANGO, Guatemala — Amidst the chaos of third-graders getting ready for recess, a small empty desk stands out. The child who used to sit there is gone, having left for the United States with his father.

In another classroom, four girls work together to fix their costume for the school’s carnival. The rest of their ninth-grade class has dropped out — some to go to the U.S., others because their families couldn’t afford school any longer.

In a neighboring town, a teacher gardens to empower young women after the village’s only secondary program closed due to a lack of students.

some of these villages are losing their future as the younger generation heads north. Many of those who stay behind face a heavier workload — they need to care for younger siblings and tend house while their mothers work in the fields or fetch wood, tasks that typically belonged to their husbands.

Successful migrants frequently display their success by using wages from U.S. jobs to build U.S.-style houses in the home village. The status display pressures other locals to make the journey. According to a 2017 report by Citylab.com:

The hybrid dwellings aren’t even necessarily designed to be lived in. Sometimes, “the house is like a trophy to show to the rest of the village,” Aragón says, proof that a son, daughter, husband, or wife is succeeding in America. The building may sit empty, Aragón adds, while the family members remain in their more traditional homes—or else family life is clustered in just a few rooms of the new house, leaving the rest barren. Families may imagine the prodigal son or daughter returning one day to settle in, a hometown hero acclimating to a landscape that bears shifting resemblances to both places he left, Aragón says. “It’s very tender,” she adds. While some do come back, many—particularly those who entered America undocumented—don’t return.

The pressure to migrate is boosted by cellphones, which allow migrants who walk through the catch-and-release loopholes into the United States job market to display their new wealth to the young men and women whom they left behind. Daniel Reichman, an associate professor and chair of anthropology at the University of Rochester, reported:

People in even the most remote corners of Central America now have phones and internet devices, allowing them to communicate with their relatives abroad to facilitate the migration process. This was simply impossible before the cell phone. Technology makes the world smaller, and it makes migration a more viable option than it was in the past. Borders can’t contain technology, and people now evaluate their circumstances in Central America against what they imagine they will encounter in the United States.

The combination of domestic poverty and relative U.S. wealth is exacerbated by the many migrants who never reach jobs in the United States, even after they mortgage their homes to cartel-affiliated lenders. These domestic economic disasters are leaving a growing number of failed migrants without their farms, homes, or assets, which are now owned by cartel lenders and coyotes.

In 2014, Elias López hired a smuggler to help him and a friend get into the United States. His friend died of thirst when the smuggler abandoned them south of the border, and López was quickly deported, leaving him deeply in debt, according to an April article in the New Yorker.

Once López returned to Guatemala, the idea of trying to make the trip again horrified him. “I could still see my [dead] friend’s face,” he said. But there was still the issue of mounting payments on his loan. The prospect that compelled his first trip—finding work and getting paid in U.S. dollars—now seemed even more urgent with his family’s land hanging in the balance. Last year, he decided to use a different smuggler and to try to enter the U.S. through Arizona. “This time I went to a bank, and I told them I needed a loan to start a business,” he said. His uncle had agreed to serve as a reference, and the bank eventually extended López a loan of eighty-five thousand quetzales, at a standard rate of interest. As collateral, he put up his family’s house, knowing that if he fell behind in his bank payments, they would be homeless. In November, López tried to cross the border for the second time, but he was again apprehended. He now owes the bank one hundred and fifty thousand quetzales, or about nineteen thousand five hundred dollars.

But the debts cannot be repaid with Guatemala’s low wages. So many of the deported migrants borrow more money to make another effort to sneak into the U.S. job market:

“Tens of thousands of Guatemalans assume debt every year,” Aracely Martínez, an immigration expert at the Universidad del Valle de Guatemala, told me. “It’s common throughout the entire country, especially if someone doesn’t have a lot of financial support from their family, or if they don’t have friends in the United States.” Some, like López, never make it to the U.S., but others who do are often deported later, before they have enough time to pay down their loans, which usually takes between six months and a year of steady work in the U.S. For those who are apprehended, there’s an additional problem: prolonged detention means months of inactivity in which the interest on a person’s loan continues to run. Evictions have grown increasingly common in some areas where debts have become unpayable. “I have three relatives who have been kicked out,” a father and former migrant told two American researchers in an article published last year in the journal Antipode. “Now they’re living with other people …  That’s why many people after their second deportation keep on trying.”

“These days, average migrant debts have climbed so high that a U.S. wage is the only real way to pay them off,” Johnson told me. The Trump Administration has only exacerbated the situation. By focussing almost exclusively on harsher enforcement at the border, it has made crossing much more painful but no less urgent for those who are trying to alleviate mounting debts. “Deportation doesn’t seem to deter undocumented migration,” Johnson said, “so much as to reinforce it.”

Guatemala’s huge migration — and the corrupt local government — deter foreign investors from creating new factories and jobs in the poor country. The investment rate has dropped from roughly $1.3 billion in 2014 to roughly $1 billion in 2018.

The Guatemalan government does little to stop the migration, partly because the nation’s economy is aided by huge remittances from the United States. The remittances brought in $9.3 billion in 2018, so muffling public opposition to the nation’s poor government and lack of economic development.

American migration enthusiasts show little concern about economic and civic wreckage in Central America caused by the U.S policy of allowing large-scale illegal migration — except when the wreckage can be used to justify more migration.

In fact, the economic chaos caused by Democrats’ easy-migration policies is used by Democrats to justify to their refusal to close the borders against what they insist is a “humanitarian ” emergency.

Most of those Democrats, pro-migration lawyers, academics, and business executives do not care about the costs paid by Americans’ families and communities when U.S. employers can hire from an endless supply of desperate, compliant, grateful, and hard-working migrants imported from Central America. One reason not to care is that few of those migrants’ children will compete for the elite jobs sought by the Democratic elite’s expensively educated children.

Progressive Reichman, for example, dismisses Americans’ rational economic concern about the supply of cheap labor as a form of racism. The concerns are caused by “racist or xenophobic attitudes that cast the immigrant as a threatening ‘other,’ creating a self-perpetuating cycle of fear and social exclusion,” the supposed leftist and would-be professor wrote.

American people should get no preferences — regardless of class or nationality — when the elites rewrite the nation’s laws on immigration and labor supply, he suggested. “Any immigration system that is in accord with our values needs to recognize that migrants are people, first and foremost,” he declared from his university, where administrators have quietly imported hundreds of white-collar H-1B visa workers.

It is not clear if Reichman will welcome President Donald Trump’s 2020 immigration platform, which would reduce the current inflow of legal immigrants for blue-collar jobs — such as construction in Rochester, NY. Instead, Trump’s would boost blue-collar Americans by raising the number of incoming high-skill immigrants eager to accept low wages for jobs now performed by white-collar researchers in Rochester.

Background numbers to know:

Each year, roughly four million young Americans join the workforce after graduating from high school or university.

But the federal government then imports about 1.1 million legal immigrants and refreshes a resident population of roughly 1.5 million white-collar visa workers — including roughly one million H-1B workers — and approximately 500,000 blue-collar visa workers.

The government also prints out more than one million work permits for foreigners, tolerates about eight million illegal workers, and does not punish companies for employing the hundreds of thousands of illegal migrants who sneak across the border or overstay their legal visas each year.

This policy of inflating the labor supply boosts economic growth for investors because it ensures that employers do not have to compete for American workers by offering higher wages and better working conditions.

This policy of flooding the market with cheap foreign white-collar graduates and blue-collar labor shifts also enormous wealth from young employees towards older investors even as it also widens wealth gaps, reduces high-tech investment, increases state and local tax burdens, and hurts children’s schools and college educations. It also pushes Americans away from high-tech careers and sidelines millions of marginalized Americans, including many who are now struggling with fentanyl addictions. The labor policy also moves business investment and wealth from the heartland to the coastal citiesexplodes rents and housing costsshrivels real estate values in the Midwest and rewards investors for creating low tech, labor-intensive workplaces.

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