A few thoughts about the immigration crisis from here in Honduras

IMG_3060Almost everyone I’ve met down here has family and/or friends in the United States. I don’t ask if they’re legal, but just judging by socioeconomic class, I’m sure the vast majority are not. It’s prohibitively expensive (and difficult) for the average Honduran to even get a tourist visa to the US, and I’m sure only the rich have a shot at residency…that is unless a Honduran marries a gringo or gringa. Careful now 😉


Violence is a huge problem here. For the most part, it is confined to gangs in the big cities, but there are the occasional stray bullets. While I did write about some recent murders in my smaller city, I’ve heard rumors that these people were probably involved in drug sales/transports or were screwing around with other peoples’ wives. As my friend put it, “Nobody gets killed in Tela unless it is for drugs, gangs, or adultery.” Hopefully my big head will keep that in mind for my other head. As a related note, for a good movie that touches on both the gang presence in Honduras and the trip to try to enter the US, watch “Sin Nombre” (full movie here…shhh). It’s very well done, and gives you a sense of what all those people who did make it up to the border have gone through.

As I’ve mentioned before, San Pedro Sula is the current holder of “murder capital of the world” dishonors. In the paper a couple days ago, they had a graphic showing 2013 murder rates in my area of the country:

IMG_3113**In the map, the upper number is the raw number of homicides, and the lower number is per 100,000 inhabitants**

This is a bit disconcerting, because if you refer back to Wikipedia, La Ceiba should be listed #2 and my little city would come in at #5 (or 6 if Ceiba was in there too). Sooooooo, there must be a minimum city population they use. The average person here absolutely agrees that this is a problem, but nobody seems to think there is anything they can do about it. Fortunately, the rate did fall 8% from 2012. Maybe that trend will continue. I certainly don’t think Greater Tela is averaging 6.9 murders per month this year. Maybe 3, unless I am completely oblivious.


The whole country is in a rough place economically. GDP growth (not the best measure, but that’s what I have) peaked in 2006, before falling into recession for 2009, recovering a bit in 2010, but then plateauing in 2011-12 and falling a bit in 2013. That doesn’t entirely jive with the raw data I have for GDP by year, but either way, things haven’t gotten better recently. And of course, I can tell you from 10 months of personal experience, that everyone agrees these are tough times economically.

Here is the thing that I don’t think people in The States realize:

The minimum wage is about $400 per month down here. Not very many (I wish I had data on this, but let’s say <50% of) working age people have jobs that pay the minimum wage or more. Depending on what shift they work, on-the-books workers put in 40-44 hours per week. If we take the 40/week, at 4.345 weeks/month, that’s 173.8 hours/month or a wonderful $2.30/hour – AND THAT’S FOR THE PEOPLE LUCKY ENOUGH TO MAKE MINIMUM WAGE!

Are you beginning to understand why the risk of a husband trying sneaking into the US is so appealing? If he makes it, even making $5/hour is more than double what he could make on minimum wage down here. For some of the receptionists I know, $5/hour is more than 7 times what they make down here. For the day laborer getting $10-15/day, making $80+/day working for some suburbonite seems like a dream.

It’s not that they live some fancy life up in the US on that money. For the most part, they are extremely frugal and send money home each month, where it makes a HUGE difference for their family. I’ve heard the story of how so-and-so’s family is doing well (relatively) because of money coming in from the US at least 10 times from 10 different people.

We can debate the good or bad that illegals do in the US in the comments or in a future post, but hopefully this gives you a bit of perspective while the immigration influx gets ironed out up north.


About Chris Fountain

Start small, but think BIG.
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