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New trends in South-South migration: The economic impact of COVID-19 and immigration enforcement

Roxana Guti\'errez-RomeroNayeli Salgado
Dec 2022
This paper evaluates the impact of the pandemic and enforcement at the US andMexican borders on the emigration of Guatemalans during 2017-2020. During thisperiod, the number of crossings from Guatemala fell by 10%, according to theSurvey of Migration to the Southern Border of Mexico. Yet, there was a rise ofnearly 30% in the number of emigration crossings of male adults travelling withtheir children. This new trend was partly driven by the recent reduction in thenumber of children deported from the US. For a one-point reduction in thenumber of children deported from the US to Guatemalan municipalities, there wasan increase of nearly 14 in the number of crossings made by adult males leavingfrom Guatemala for Mexico; and nearly 0.5 additional crossings made by maleadults travelling with their children. However, the surge of emigrantstravelling with their children was also driven by the acute economic shock thatGuatemala experienced during the pandemic. During this period, air pollution inthe analysed Guatemalan municipalities fell by 4%, night light per capita fellby 15%, and homicide rates fell by 40%. Unlike in previous years, emigrants arefleeing poverty rather than violence. Our findings suggest that a reduction inviolence alone will not be sufficient to reduce emigration flows from CentralAmerica, but that economic recovery is needed.