New data analysis shows that Temporary Protected Status for Central American countries should reduce, not increase, irregular migration at the border

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We know that work authorization through TPS leads to high rates of labor participation. The current labor market participation rates of current long-term TPS holders from El Salvador (82%) and Honduras (85%) are significantly higher than the U.S. general public (63%) and similar to or even higher than the participation rates of workers who are 25 to 54 years old (82%), prime working ages in the U.S.

Work authorizations through TPS can bring financial certainty and growth to Central American families, allowing them to support their families here in the U.S., but also their families in their home countries. The researchers took many country-level factors into account, including those of neighboring countries in the region, when assessing the hypothetical level of remittances per capita absent a TPS designation versus the actual remittances sent per capita following TPS designations for El Salvador and Honduras. As a counterfactual scenario, the models also show that remittances would have doubled for Guatemala if it had been designated TPS like other Central American countries. (See a complete methodology in the academically published paper here.)

Many of the incentives, or push factors, that lead to irregular migration are reduced when remittances increase to citizens of Central American countries. Using data from the Gallup World Poll of Central and South American respondents, researchers found that a higher share of those satisfied with housing, healthcare, and other public goods is correlated with higher remittances, allowing families to access these essential goods and services with increasing remittances from family in the U.S. This greater level of satisfaction with conditions in Central American countries operates as a buffer to the economic instability, acute hunger, lack of medical care, and other basic needs experienced during humanitarian crises in these countries.

In fact, combining data from the Gallup World Poll with remittances data from the researchers’ models shows that the probability of planning to migrate significantly decreases as the amount of remittances per capita increases in El Salvador and Honduras. As in previous models, this correlation controls for various push and pull factors commonly associated with intentions to migrate.

Ultimately, however, the strongest evidence of the role of TPS designation on remittances, and thus intentions to migrate, is seen in apprehensions at the U.S. southern border. The model, controlling for typical push and pull factors, show that, as per capita remittance dollars increase in El Salvador and Honduras, the predicted number of apprehensions, based on the model and actual apprehension levels from these two countries over the past several years, precipitously drops, even after an increase in remittances of just a few hundred dollars annually.

Statistical models indicate that expanding work opportunities for Central Americans already in the U.S. through TPS designation of these countries could increase remittances even further, serving as a countermeasure for additional forced migration in the years ahead. Higher remittances offer family members the financial support to stay in their home countries while conditions in their countries stabilize.

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