Trump’s policies raise fears in Central America

Recent immigration measures hit the region with concerns of deportations and remittances

Going back home. The U.S. sent 72,995 Salvadorans, Hondurans and Guatemalans back to their home countries in 2015, while 79,396 Central Americans were deported in 2016 – Photo: Archive / EL UNIVERSAL
English 28/01/2017 14:28 José Meléndez Actualizada 15:13

U.S. president, Donald Trump, placed Central America at the center of his attacks against illegal immigration together with his plan to build a wall in the Mexico-U.S. border, which has raised fears in Guatemala, El Salvador and Honduras with concerns of deportations and affectations to the current flow of remittances to these Central American countries as their economies are tied to the financial flows resulting from remittances sent by fellow-nationals that, legally or illegally, live in the U.S.

Last Wednesday, president Trump warned that the wall seeks to contain illegal flows of Central American immigrants heading to the U.S. through Mexico, while the Guatemalan government admitted that remittances are a priority for their economy: “(Trump’s) new protectionist policies are one of the biggest problems that we have to face”, said Guatemalan Minister of Foreign Affairs, Carlos Morales, while noting that Guatemala is a country of immigrants: “There are 3.5 million Guatemalan nationals in the U.S. and the amount of remittances increased from US$6,284m in 2015 to US$7,159m in 2016”.

Earlier this week, The Bank of Guatemala predicted an 8% decrease in the annual amount of family remittances for 2017 to US$6,587m. Economic resources derived from remittances last year amount to 40% of the total foreign currency income of Guatemala, which causes “great concern for what might happen” with the immigration policies issued by president Trump, as stated by Minister Morales.

He added that, while the construction of the wall creates great “concern”, there is “nothing new; as the wall is actually built” in part of the over 3,000 kilometers along the Mexico-U.S. border. Morales highlighted that, though “Trump will finish its construction and enforcement”, the Guatemalan government has to “figure out a way to assist our fellow immigrants to guarantee their safety at the time legal actions against them are enforced”.

Additionally, Morales exposed the elements that hit Central America and its current links with the U.S.: remittances and deportations.

Official data shows that the U.S. is home to almost 7 million citizens from Central America, who hold either a legal or illegal migratory status, with 3.5 million coming from Guatemala and 2.8 million from El Salvador, while Hondurans, and small communities of Nicaraguans, Costa Ricans, Panamanian and Belizean live in numbers yet to be determined.

Guatemala, El Salvador and Honduras create the Central America North Triangle, and are among the U.S. top illegal immigration countries in Latin America and the Caribbean.

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Yesterday, updated figures from the central banks of Guatemala, El Salvador and Honduras showed that family remittances increased from US$14,203.8m in 2015 to US$15,684m in 2016.

The U.S. deportations to these countries also increased with 72,995 deportations of Hondurans and Guatemalans in 2015 to 79,396 deportations in 2016, while deportations of citizens from the Central America North Triangle, from Mexico to their countries of origin, decreased from 158,789 in 2015 to 128,294 in 2016 according to official figures.

President of El Salvador, Salvador Sánchez Cerén, said that “in tune with the global changes that we live, we are aware that the new U.S. administration poses challenges that push to the strengthening of the relations between countries to guarantee the well-being of our peoples”, in the occasion of his appointment to the temporary presidency of the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC) last January 25 in the Dominican Republic.