Report: Majority of Guatemalan Migrants Come to U.S. for Better Economic Opportunities

Less than 0.3 percent leave to escape violence, gangs, or extortion

Guatemala City / Getty Images
August 8, 2017

A majority of Guatemalans who migrate to the United States—91.1 percent—are seeking better economic opportunities, according to a study from the International Organization for Migration.

The study evaluated 3,224 households to examine why individuals were leaving the country.

Of those that are seeking better economic opportunities, 56.8 percent of Guatemalans migrate to the United States to get a better job and 32.9 percent said they wanted to improve their income. Another 1.2 percent said they wanted to purchase a home and 0.1 percent said they wanted to open a business.

Overwhelmingly more Guatemalans are leaving to improve their fiscal situation rather than leaving solely to escape violence.

According to the study, only 0.2 percent are migrating because of extortion, 0.3 percent are leaving due to violence, and 0.2 percent are fleeing because of gang issues.

Most recently, Vice Minister of Foreign Affairs Carlos Martinez echoed this sentiment at an event called "Encounter With Migrants 2017," which is designed to bring entrepreneurs in the United States and Guatemala together to promote productivity and investment.

"As the report shows, migration is multi-causal," the Center for Immigration Studies explains. "However, the immigration narrative in the United States has crafted a monocausal 'migration crisis'—that cause being violence."

"As a result, causes such as economic migration and family reunification are glaringly absent from the conversation," the group said. "But as the Guatemalan case demonstrates, economic reasons and family reunification can be, and often are, predominant push and pull factors. Without recognizing these issues within the immigration debate, policies seeking to rectify the U.S. immigration system will fail."