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Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Hondurans: The "Other Mexicans"

Many of the Central American undocumented immigrants that you might see in the United States, especially in the southern states, are from Honduras, not from Mexico. This phenomenon is discussed in detail in a new report just out from the Migration Information Source in Washington, DC.
A small number of Hondurans had been residing in the United States since the 1950s and 1960s. But it was not until the late 1990s and early 2000s that their numbers swelled, growing from approximately 109,000 in 1990 to 283,000 in 2000, peaking at close to 523,000 in 2010, and then dropping to around 491,000 in 2011.
It is important to note that the Honduran immigrant community in the United States was established after the US legalization program of the late 1980s, and much of it after Hurricane Mitch devastated Central America's Northern Triangle in 1998. In large part because of their "late" timing, Honduran flows to the United States have been largely illegal. In 2011, more than three-quarters of Hondurans in the country were believed to lack legal status, the largest share among all Central American immigrant groups in the United States. Hondurans are thus disproportionately affected by US deportations. The large numbers of deportees — with or without their families — find it difficult to reintegrate into Honduran society.
The author, Daniel Reichman, an anthropologist at Rochester University, has done a nice job of showing how this migration has transformed families--indeed maybe the whole society--in Honduras. 
A new social order has emerged across Honduras. Many of the markers of status that defined life before the migration boom — such as land ownership, advanced age, education, and political connections — are being replaced by knowledge of how to migrate successfully to the United States and remit earnings to family members in Honduras. Migrants and returnees have become the very models of success for young people in rural areas. At the same time, new forms of social differentiation are emerging. The meaning and value of education, lawful citizenship, and family responsibility have been redefined in the context of the migration phenomenon.
For these and other reasons, remittance dependency poses a great challenge to Honduran society. While remittances (mainly from the United States) prop up the economy, a large percentage of Hondurans still live in poverty. Remittances may be a stop-gap solution for a weak Honduran economy, but this does not mean that a "migration economy" — especially one that depends so heavily on dangerous, illicit channels of migration — is sustainable in the long term. In the short term, meanwhile, any significant decrease in remittance flows would shock the economy.
The plight of many of these immigrants is, of course, a result of the mixed up immigration policy of the United States, which closes the legal door to workers even though their labor is in demand by the US economy. Will Honduras be a better or worse place in the future because of this? That's a tough one to call.

1 comment:

  1. The other Mexicans? Who ever wrote this is so racist and stupid.