Skip main navigation

New offer! Get 30% off your first 2 months of Unlimited Monthly. Start your subscription for just £29.99 £19.99. New subscribers only. T&Cs apply

Find out more

Overview of Mexican and Central American flows to the USA

Reflect on the switch from the Global South (Middle East) to North America that will take place during this week
The natural border between the United States and Mexico begins by the Pacific Ocean and runs east across the path of the Rio Grande until the Mexican Gulf. Though specific border crossing locations have varied throughout the years, depending on numbers of migrants, climate conditions, and policing, the most walked routes have remained, for the most part, unchanged. Central American migration flows largely originate in the Northern Triangle, which is the name given to El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras. And it is from these three states along with Nicaragua and Mexico, that almost all migrants heading to the US come from.
Moving by foot is dangerous as the harsh climate makes for extreme temperature fluctuations, and the currents of the Rio Grande can be vicious. Let’s look at how the situation has evolved over time due to socio-economic and environmental conditions faced by the people of these countries. In the 1980s, civil wars in Nicaragua, Guatemala, and El Salvador prompted many to seek refuge in the US. By now, the conflict has ended. Still, economic insecurity and localized violence continue to motivate many to move north. Between the 1990s and the first decade of the 2010s, this trend intensified. The migrant stock originating from Central America arriving in the US tripled.
Between this 25-year period, natural disasters such as the 1998 Hurricane Mitch in Honduras and the 2001 earthquake in El Salvador worsened the already complex situation. In addition, the 2016 Venezuelan crisis made up for another extremely significant inflow of migrants to the US. Furthermore, migration flows also increased from Mexico as the state faced growing corruption and violence, and as its geographic position made it the closest to the US soil. Mexico is the first country of origin for immigrants headed to the US. In 2018, data estimated that more than 11 million US immigrants arrived in the US from Mexico, making up for one-fourth of all migrants in the country.
China, India, and the Philippines follow, and in fifth place, there is another Central American country, El Salvador, which accounts for 3% of the total share of US migrants. According to data, most Central American migrants tend to settle relatively close to the border. Numerically speaking, 37% of them settles in the state of California, namely Los Angeles County, followed by Texas Cooke County with 21%, and Illinois Orange County for 6%. The drivers of migration from the Northern Triangle Central America and Mexico to the United States are complex. People seek better job opportunities and a better future for their children. But they’re also pushed to leave by natural disasters, environmental degradation, violence, and corruption in government.
This article is from the free online

Why Do People Migrate? Facts

Created by
FutureLearn - Learning For Life

Reach your personal and professional goals

Unlock access to hundreds of expert online courses and degrees from top universities and educators to gain accredited qualifications and professional CV-building certificates.

Join over 18 million learners to launch, switch or build upon your career, all at your own pace, across a wide range of topic areas.

Start Learning now