RELEASE: New CAP Brief Sheds Light on Why People Continue to Flee Latin America

Washington, D.C. — As the Trump administration’s policy to separate children from their families at the border has brought public attention to the refugee crises, a new CAP issue brief provides clear data laying out why many families and children from Latin America are seeking refuge in the United States today. The brief reveals that asylum applications registered by citizens of Northern Triangle countries increased more than elevenfold from 2011 through 2017, and the number of Venezuelans applying for asylum experienced a thirty-fivefold increase from 2012 through 2016.

The Northern Triangle —El Salvador, Honduras, and Guatemala—remains one of the most dangerous regions in Latin American. While homicides rates have shown signs of improvement in these three countries, the data clearly show that the epidemic of violence is far from over. The same is true for female homicides. While femicide rates have dropped, both El Salvador and Honduras rank among the top 10 countries with the highest rates of femicides.

Consequently, asylum applications from citizens of Northern Triangle countries are skyrocketing and those numbers continue to rise. And while the significant number of people fleeing the Northern Triangle are evidence of the extreme conditions in the region, many others have fled from their homes and are internally displaced elsewhere in their home countries for those same reasons.

  • Homicides per 100,000 people: El Salvador, 60.0; Honduras, 42.8; Guatemala, 26.1; United States, 5.3
  • Female homicides per 100,000 women: El Salvador, 16.2; Honduras, 12.6; Guatemala, 8.1; United States, 2.1
  • Percentage growth of asylum applications from the Northern Triangle region to other countries: Mexico, 1,971 percent; Central America, 1,475 percent; Europe, 1,285 percent; United States, 1,089 percent

What’s more, Venezuela is collapsing, and its emerging refugee crisis is a neglected humanitarian crisis. Venezuela is ranked as the most violent country in the Latin American and Caribbean regions, and Caracas, its capital, is one of the most murderous cities in the world. The homicide rates have remained consistently high from 2012 through 2016 and it would not be surprising to see this trend continue. Meanwhile, only one other country among those not involved in armed conflict surpassed Venezuela’s femicide rate of 24.5 out of every 100,000 women.

Unsurprisingly, Venezuelans are fleeing their country in record numbers. From 2012 through 2016, the number of Venezuelans seeking asylum has increased from 963 in 2012 to 34,348 in 2016, and in the United States, that number grew by nearly 2,500 percent.

“The data paint a clear picture as to why people are fleeing Latin America. But rather than recognize the need to do more to stabilize countries in the region and protect those seeking asylum, the administration is taking actions that will make things worse for those seeking protection and directly contradict the efforts of the region,” said Silva Mathema, senior policy analyst of Immigration Policy at the Center for American Progress and author of the report. “All the Trump administration’s actions run contrary to what the United States should be doing in Latin America to improve security and economic conditions and encourage a regional solution to tackle these issues.”

Read the brief: “They Are (Still) Refugees: People Continue to Flee Violence in Latin American Countries” by Silva Mathema

For more information on this topic or to speak with an expert, please contact Rafael J. Medina at rjmedina@americanprogress.org or 202-748-5313.