Border Patrol apprehensions of Central Americans from the Northern Triangle countries of El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras rose again this month to 444,509, so far this fiscal year (FY). According to United Nations population estimates, U.S. Border Patrol apprehended 1.32 percent of all residents of the Northern Triangle countries to date this fiscal year. Northern Triangle citizens account for 75 percent of all Border Patrol apprehensions this FY.
So far in FY 2019, 1.8 percent of the population of Honduras, 1.2 percent of the population of Guatemala, and 0.9 percent of the population of El Salvador have been apprehended by U.S. Border Patrol. The percent of the Northern Triangle populations apprehended by Border Patrol are still far lower than the annual emigration rates from many European countries during the Age of Migration in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. According to Dudley Baines, the emigration rate from Italy was about 2 percent per year from 1901-1913 while it was almost 4 percent per year from Calabria during the same time. Regardless, Border Patrol apprehensions in FY 2019 as a percentage of the sending country’s population is very high.
The rate of Northern Triangle emigration has accelerated rapidly over the last several years as reflected by the percent of the population in those countries apprehended by Border Patrol (Figure 1). However, the collapse of Border Patrol apprehensions of Mexicans is equally dramatic as it fell from about 0.6 percent of Mexico’s population in 2007 to 0.1 percent in 2019. A major difference between the apprehension of Mexicans in the past and those from the Northern Triangle today is that the latter are turning themselves into Border Patrol to ask for asylum while the former were trying to evade.
Figure 1 does not include the number of immigrants from those countries who received green cards, work visas, entered unlawfully and escaped detection, or returned to their home countries from the United States. It is just a gross apprehension rate by Border Patrol. It both undercounts and overcounts the net emigration rate from the Northern Triangle. It overcounts because only some of those apprehended are let in and many are removed, it doesn’t include other deportations from the interior of the United States, and it doesn’t count voluntary returns. It undercounts because it doesn’t include the number of green cards issued to those abroad in the Northern Triangle nor does it include the number of other visas issued to them. The net effect on the net emigration rate of the Northern Triangle is ambiguous.