More than three million Central Americans reside in the United States with widely differing legal situations, and this will likely continue as long as Central America remains a vulnerable region. For home countries prone to governance problems, widespread violence, natural disasters and economic stagnation, remittances sent by Central American migrants are a decisive factor driving economic dynamism and social change in their countries of origin. In El Salvador, for instance, remittances from abroad represent seventeen percent of GDP. The nature and evolution of the U.S. debate on immigration will likely have an outsize effect on Central America’s development prospects.
On September 29, the Latin America Initiative at Brookings and the Central American Bank for Economic Integration hosted a discussion on the current and future prospects of Central American migration to the United States, the regional implications of the U.S. domestic debate on immigration, and the trends and impacts of remittances in the Central American isthmus. Two panels of experts examined these issues, followed by a keynote address by Julissa Reynoso, deputy assistant secretary of state for Central American and Caribbean Affairs at the U.S. Department of State.
After each panel, participants took audience questions.