A couple of stories in the newspapers this week suggest the best way North Americans could help Honduras is to let a few more people head north to find jobs.
La Prensa reported remittances - the money sent back by Hondurans working in the U.S. - will be up 12 per cent this year.
That would bring the money sent home to about $3.2 billion, or about 18 per cent of the country’s GDP. Put another way, without remittances the GDP per capita would drop from about $4,400 to $3,600. (In Canada, the comparable figure is about $40,000.)
Just about everyone you talk to seems to have friends or relatives working in the U.S., generally without going through the immigration process. They send money home to support the family and cover the costs of getting ahead - a house, or a business. Many come home after a few years of working and saving have given them a chance at a better life here. (The issues are more complex than that summary suggests - some don’t come home, some forget their families and start a new life in the U.S., the money can create jealousies in communities.)
La Prensa also reported that, with two weeks left in the year, 31,270 Hondurans had been deported from the U.S. by air. Every few days, a jet full of deportees lands in Tegucigalpa or San Pedro Sula. (The new call centre industry has started recruiting among the returning deportees, looking for those who speak English.)
Thousands more are turned back at the border or robbed, killed or thwarted on the long and dangerous trip from Honduras through Guatemala and Mexico to the U.S.
There are about a million Hondurans in the U.S., about 60 per cent of them “undocumented,” the current term for illegal. Letting a few more in - or cutting the deportations - would mean more remittances and more investment.
Canada, of course, could offer the same opportunities. A small number of Hondurans have been allowed in under temporary worker programs. Opening the door a little wider - and not just for the jobs employers are looking to fill cheaply - could do as much for Honduras as many aid programs.