To me, the most interesting question around the subject of immigration to the US from Guatemala is “What happens to the women and children left behind?” Because mostly women and children are the ones left behind, as their husbands, fathers, sons, and boyfriends make the perilous journey through Mexico and over the border to the US. There’s no question why they risk their lives to do so: for work, to support their families, and to fulfill the belief they will find more opportunity.
In Guatemala: The Deported Return, written by James Rodriguez in the October 2 edition of Upside Down World, I learned these 2013 statistics:
Some 1.5 million Guatemalan nationals currently live in the US without documentation. (Guatemala’s total population is estimated around 14 million)
$ 5.2 billion was sent from the US to Guatemala in remittance money, representing 1/10 of the Gross Domestic Product
In the first eight months of 2013, 33,783 Guatemalans were deported from the US and returned to Guatemala. That number comprises:
31,051 men; 2,475 women; and 257 minors under the age of 18.
In California, I’ve met many Central American nationals who have left family behind, some starting new families here. As an adoptive parent, I’ve heard of several cases where a birth father (and, rarely, a birth mother) has left Guatemala and now lives in the US. In every conversation, I wonder “What does that feel like? Was the move worthwhile? Will you ever go back?” One great book on the subject of migration is the Pulitzer Prize-winning Enrique’s Journey, written by Sonia Nazario, about a boy from Honduras who travels to North Carolina to find his mother, who moved there to work.
I look forward to reading others.