Politics & Policy

Majority of Hondurans in U.S. Are Illegal

Flying the Honduran flag in Washington, D.C. (Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)
Nearly 6 in 10 are undocumented, says State Department

Nearly as many Hondurans live in the United States as live in Tegucigalpa, the capital city of Honduras, and the majority of them are “undocumented,” according to the State Department. “An estimated 1 million Hondurans reside in the United States, 600,000 of whom are believed to be undocumented,” a State Department fact sheet estimated in March 2014, when the scale of the unaccompanied-children crisis was not as widely known. Border Patrol officers apprehended more than 16,500 Honduran unaccompanied alien children and more than 30,300 Honduran family units through June of fiscal year 2014, according to U.S. Customs and Border Protection data.

Speaking from a conference in Tegucigalpa, Ana Quintana, a research associate on Latin America for the Heritage Foundation, tells National Review Online that, contrary to some media reports, the Honduran government has not encouraged its citizens to leave the country and has made a strenuous effort to improve the living conditions of its citizens. “No country wants to continue losing its people,” Quintana says. “The overall feeling is no country wants their people to feel that lack of safety and opportunity continue.”

Despite the poverty and violence that are said to have forced many people to flee the country, Honduras’s population has grown steadily for decades. Approximately 8.6 million people live in Honduras today, according to a July 2014 estimate from the CIA World Factbook. In fact, at current rates, there will soon be more Hondurans in the U.SA. than there were in all of Honduras in 1950 (1.38 million, according to United Nations records), and more than live in Tegucigalpa today (1.1 million, according to Instituto Nacional de Estadistica Honduras). And while the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services explains that many of the unaccompanied alien children are fleeing tough conditions in the country that boasts the world’s highest murder rate, the State Department reports that 800,000 U.S. citizens visit Honduras annually and about 22,000 Americans reside within the nation’s borders.

Eric Hershberg, director of the Center for Latin American and Latino Studies at American University in Washington, D.C., tells NRO that the Hondurans living in the United States are not as well organized as their counterparts from El Salvador and Mexico. “For the most part, I don’t think you would talk about a Honduran community in the United States in the same way you might talk about some other groups of national origin,” Hershberg says. “Honduras . . . does not have a history of strong political organizations, of collective action. It’s a much more atomized society. It’s a much less-structured civil society.” And although there are some exceptions, Hershberg says, Hondurans living in the United States are not geographically concentrated.

— Ryan Lovelace is a William F. Buckley Jr. Fellow at the National Review Institute.

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