Why Guatemalans Want to go to the U.S.

I have lived in Central America for close to twenty years. I have talked to lots of Guatemalans who want to move to the U.S. Every one of them cites "economic reasons", usually phrase as "I want to make some money". Zero has claimed that violence or repression was the reason. I am writing this post mostly to help people who have not been here better understand the immigration issues that plague the U.S. southern border. I encourage feedback here.

Now, their analysis is not sophisticated. For most it boils down to the income numbers they see. While there are lots of Guatemalans making less than minimum wage here and lots of Usanos making less than minimum wage in the U.S., using minimum wage numbers is useful for a quick comparison. The comparison is about $2500/mo in the U.S. vs. $400/mo in Guatemala. On the surface that makes it seem like an amazing opportunity.

If you have lived in the U.S. you will quickly recognize this is not a valid comparison. Just food, shelter and heating/cooling costs in the U.S. will eat up most of the difference. But, even having 10% of you salary available to send "back home" would make a huge difference for those "left behind".

The Guatemalan I know with some experience went to the U.S. "to make some money". He went there illegally, did make some money and went back home -- because he wanted to go back to his country and start a family. Today he would like to go back to the U.S., this time legally, "to make some money". But, it is money, not the romance of being in the U.S. or a need to run away from crime in Guatemala that is the draw. It would, again, be temporary.

One other common perception is that Guatemala has "a drug problem". Well, it does but not what most think. The problem is that Guatemala is the main trans-shipment point for drugs, primarily cocaine, being shipped from South America to the U.S. That creates drug-related crime in Guatemala because of the potential profits in the illegal drug business. This is not just my thinking as Guatemala's ex-president Otto Perez Molina said this and suggested that legalizing all drugs in Guatemala would be the best solution.

While I know a lot less about the situation in other Central American countries, I do know that lots of the problems in Honduras are related to the 2009 coup against then President Manuel Zelaya (MEL) which was supported by then Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.

One final thought. Canada has a temporary work visa program. (I didn't post a link here as I didn't find the official site among all the "noise".)  I expect the U.S. claims to have something similar but I guess it really works in Canada. Seriously offering such a program with a minimum of "hoop jumping" required might break off a lot of real desires for employment from the huge issues along the U.S. southern border.