Hondurans Often Stymied in Pursuit of American Dream

Only 10% of Emigrants Reach Their Goal

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TEGUCIGALPA, Honduras, SEPT. 4, 2001 (Zenit.org).- Every year 35,000 Hondurans leave their homeland in pursuit of the "American dream," but only one in 10 succeeds in entering the United States.



That statistic was disclosed at a press conference Monday by the National Forum for Migrations, the Social Pastoral-Caritas department of the Catholic Church, and the International Organization for Migrations, on the occasion of Sunday´s National Day of Immigrants.

Actual emigration may run as high as 100,000 a year, if unregistered migrants are counted, the National Forum said.

Many migrating Hondurans are at the mercy of "coyotes," who smuggle them into the United States for fees of up to $3,500. The illegal border crossings, often in rugged desert areas, can be dangerous.

Over the past decade, 230 Hondurans have disappeared on the way, reports say. To pay their debts to the coyotes, migrant women might be forced into prostitution, and the men might be forced to work as "mules" for drug traffickers.

Ricardo Banegas, director of the Caritas agency, said that immigration "is a very complex phenomenon with political, economic and cultural effects." He accused governments of indifference toward the present situation, especially in the case of youth.

"If there is no work, food, health or education, a long walk toward the North is undertaken, and the governments are the ones that are responsible," Banegas said.

Ten percent of Honduras´ 6 million natives live in the United States, including 120,000 illegally. Last year the latter sent $409 million to their homeland in Central America.

An additional 50,000 Hondurans live in Mexico, Canada, Central America and Spain. From 1998 to 2000, some 8,000 Hondurans were deported from the United States. An additional 2,613 were expelled between last January and July; that figure could climb to 6,000 by year-end.

In December 1998, the U.S. government granted temporal protection status to halt the deportations, so as not to aggravate the problems caused by Hurricane Mitch in October 1998. The program was to last 18 months, but the U.S. government extended it on two occasions. The expiry date now is set for August 2002.

In 1999, 103,000 Hondurans were registered for temporal protection status. In 2000, the figure decreased to 95,000, and in 2001 it dropped to 54,783.