Executive Summary


The Americas are a continent where, from a historical perspective, their migratory movements can be characterized in at least three great moments: a) until around 1950, the countries of the entire American continent were destinations for transoceanic migration coming especially from Europe, to become then – with the exception of the United States and Canada – in countries of emigration b) since around 1960, a permanent and increasingly intense emigration begins from the countries of Latin America and the Caribbean to developed countries, mainly the United States, Canada and Spain c) an intra-regional emigration between neighboring countries present over time and of a moderate magnitude, but progressively increasing, where Argentina, Costa Rica,Venezuela and recently Chile have been the main recipients of migrants.

North America is a region dominated by immigration, with the United States and Canada receiving countries for hundreds of thousands of migrants each year. In absolute terms, the United States has been the main country of destination for migrants worldwide, with 36.7 million people born abroad (2009), representing 12% of its total population and with an inflow of immigrants of more than one million annual (according to granted permanent residencies). It is estimated that 20.5 million of its foreign-born population come from Latin America and the Caribbean, with more than half of them born in Mexico.

Canada, for its part, has an inflow of immigrants of approximately a quarter of a million a year (permanent residences granted) and is one of the OECD countries with the largest foreign population in relative terms (almost 20% of its total population for in 2006). With a population of almost 700,000 people from Latin America and the Caribbean (11% of the total immigrant population), Canada ranks third in terms of emigration destinations of Latin Americans and Caribbeans to countries developed after the United States and Spain.

In the case of Latin America and the Caribbean, emigration has been since the 1960s – and continues to be today – the main migratory characteristic, despite a decrease in migratory flows towards the outside verified from the economic crisis of the year 2008.

The tendency to emigrate persists and, furthermore, there have been no significant movements of return to the countries of origin, despite the complicated economic situation that persists in the United States and Spain – the main recipient countries of migratory flows from Latin America and the rest of the world. Caribbean– and the various incentives and programs undertaken by governments to encourage the return of nationals abroad.

It is essentially in Mexico and the other countries of Central America and the Caribbean where emigration has been especially high in recent decades, and in which proximity to the United States largely explains this phenomenon. Similarly, the fact that small countries and island countries tend to have high expatriation rates (OECD 2004), is partly a consequence of generally more limited educational and employment opportunities. The net migration rates for these regions reach very high levels in a comparative perspective, since it corresponds to the loss of approximately 8 to 12% of the population of a country during a period of 20 years.

Many countries in Latin America and the Caribbean have also lost a significant portion of their youth population, with high percentages of net migration in these age groups. Only in a few countries of the Americas does immigration contribute to the increase in the size of the working-age population, as is the case in Canada and the United States.

IMMIGRATION IN 2008 and 2009

In absolute terms, in 2009 the United States and Canada together, had an income flow of approximately 3,184,600 immigrants between permanent and temporary residences granted, of which 1,382,400 were permanent (43%).

For the same year, a total inflow of 460,290 immigrants was registered in a group of seven Latin American countries analyzed in this first report: Argentina, Chile, Colombia, Ecuador, El Salvador, Mexico and Uruguay. Argentina and Chile are the two main destination countries for regional migrants.

Immigration in general terms fell in Canada and the United States by almost 6% in 2009 compared to 2008, the majority corresponding to temporary migrants. A reduction of 1% was also observed for the set of seven Latin American countries analysed, especially in Argentina.

However, the decrease in Argentina essentially reflects the number of people regularized through a special program and if these are excluded from the analysis, permanent migration to Argentina would have actually increased by 85% from 2008 to 2009, and temporary migration by 9%.

As a percentage of the total population, the immigration received by Colombia, El Salvador, Mexico and Uruguay in 2009 is especially low, at a rate of one immigrant or less per thousand inhabitants.

For their part, Argentina and Chile are the countries with the most significant immigration among Latin American countries, at a rate of five and three immigrants per thousand inhabitants, respectively. Despite this, these levels are still low compared to those of Canada –with almost 20 immigrants per thousand inhabitants– and the United States –with 8 immigrants per thousand inhabitants. In general, the level of inflows from Canada and the United States combined is, in proportional terms, almost seven times greater than that of Argentina, Chile, Colombia, Ecuador, El Salvador, Mexico, and Uruguay combined.

On the other hand, the flows of permanent migration to Argentina were proportionally of the same magnitude as those of France and Germany, and three times higher than those of Japan, although the latter are the three OECD countries that had permanent immigration per capita lowest in 2009.

In 2009, outside of Canada and the United States, immigration to the Americas continued to be a regional issue, with between 70% and 90% of immigration to Argentina, Chile, El Salvador, Ecuador, Mexico, and Uruguay originating in the Americas. Usually from neighboring countries.

In contrast, for the United States and Canada, in comparative and relative terms, the countries of the Americas were less important as countries of origin. They represented 40% of permanent category immigrants to the United States and 14% to Canada.


Permanent legal labor migration is proportionally low in the United States, the main destination country for migrants from Latin America. The United States, however, has the most liberal family migration policy of the OECD countries, facilitating, among others, the immigration of siblings and adult children of US citizens, subject to a numerical limit. Most countries allow the admission of immediate family members (spouse and minor children), subject to certain conditions, but not other family members.

The decline in labor migration in the United States as a result of the crisis occurred exclusively in temporary movements, which saw a 13% drop in 2008-2009 compared to 2006-2007 levels. Permanent labor migration was not affected, essentially because the majority (almost 90%) consisted of changes in status, that is, people who were already employed in the United States as temporary workers and were sponsored by their employers to obtain a permit. of residence and work (Green Card).

International student migration is much less developed in Latin America than in Canada (82,350 international students in 2008-2009) and the United States (348,000) where it constitutes an entry channel for young people who want to stay and work, and such settle down once they have finished their studies.


Although Latin America and the Caribbean are not considered major destination regions for people seeking asylum due to persecution, asylum applications totaled approximately 43,000 in 2009, an increase of 73% compared to 2008, and four times what which has been registered since 2000. In contrast, in 2009, Canada alone received about 34,000 applications and the United States registered 38,000. Ecuador was the main country receiving asylum applications in Latin America and the Caribbean, receiving almost 36,000 applications, largely from Colombian nationals fleeing conflict zones near the border regions of that country.


Few countries have up-to-date statistics on the flows of unauthorized immigrants, however for the United States periodic estimates are made, which indicate that from an average of 850,000 unauthorized immigrants who entered annually between 2000 and 2005, the figures have fallen to approximately 300,000 per year between 2007 and 2009 (Passel and Cohn 2010). It is also estimated that unauthorized immigrants from Mexico decreased from 500,000 to 150,000 per year in this same period. This decrease may be attributable in part to the imposition of the regulations, but also to the unfavorable employment climate in the United States, which has caused a decrease in the number of potential migrants trying to travel to the North country.

Although the most significant economic downturn since the Great Depression has somewhat reduced employer demand for unauthorized immigrants as evidenced by high unemployment rates among Latin American migrants in the United States, this fact has not prompted them to return to their countries of origin.

Unauthorized migration is not limited to the United States and is part of migration in every country and thus other countries in the Americas are also subject to the phenomenon, but clearly not on the same scale as the United States. Many Latin American countries have carried out regularizations so that the unauthorized resident population has not accumulated. Argentina has carried out an important regularization program since 2007, known as the Programa Patria Grande. During the period from 2007 to 2009, about 216,000 people were regularized, representing 10-15% of the total immigrant population. The most important countries of origin were Paraguay, Bolivia and Peru. In Chile, the 2007-2008 regularization program received 49,000 applications,


Emigration continues to be the dominant theme in Latin America and the Caribbean with respect to population movements in the region. From 2003 to 2009, almost 950,000 people per year emigrated from the Americas to OECD countries, where about half of these movements went to the United States, and a quarter to Spain.

It is noteworthy that the levels of legal migration from the Americas to the OECD countries of destination have been maintained in the midst of the harshest economic crisis of the post-war years, with the exception of the levels of migration to Spain and the United States.

Economic downturns tend to affect labor migration the most, both because employers make fewer recruitment requests from abroad as a result of lower levels of demand, and because people in free or facilitated movement regimes remain at home rather than risk an uncertain job market abroad. By the way, it is the migration of free movement in the OECD area that has been observed as the most sensitive to the economic crisis and the one that has decreased the most (OECD, 2010 and 2011).


After several decades of almost continuous growth, remittance flows to Latin American and Caribbean countries fell by 12% between 2008 and 2009 and did not fully recover in 2010.

The reductions in remittances in 2009 from Latin American emigrants were due to several reasons, including a decrease in migratory flows and stocks, and the fact that emigrants were highly concentrated in the United States and Spain, two countries those hit particularly hard by the 2008 financial crisis; and for being also concentrated in the construction sector, which is one of the most affected by the crisis.

In the case of sending remittances from the United States to Mexico and El Salvador –the two most important Latin American communities in that country– they have been reduced by 18.6 and 4.2%, respectively.

Recent figures for Mexico indicate a reversal of the trend, with a 6% increase in remittance flows in January 2011. For their part, remittances from Spain to Ecuador decreased by 27%, from a level of US$ 1,280 million in 2007 to 944 million in 2010.


45% of migrant workers from the Americas in the United States and Europe come from Mexico; the Caribbean and the Andean Region each contribute about 15%; the rest of Central America with 12%; the Southern Cone of South America 8% (includes Brazil); and Canada and the United States 4%.

The economically active migrant population of all the countries of the Americas, except those of South America, lived mostly in the United States in the years 2008-2009, where between 80 and 90% of the expatriate workers of the majority of the Caribbean countries were concentrated there, and the percentage was even higher for emigrants from Central America, with Mexico reaching a total of 99%.

Migrant workers from South American countries, on the other hand, were more frequently found in Europe, with around three quarters or more of them coming from Argentina, Bolivia, Ecuador, Paraguay and Uruguay. Emigrant workers from Brazil, Colombia, and Peru, for their part, were almost equally distributed between the United States and Europe.

Of the total economically active population of emigrants born in Latin America and the Caribbean, men represent 60%. This is mainly due to the fact that, in the case of Mexico, the economically active migrant population of women is only 31%, and given that Mexico’s share of the total economically active migrant population is 45%, this leads to an overrepresentation of women. the men.

In most Caribbean countries, women predominate in the economically active migrant population in their countries of residence abroad, the exceptions being Antigua and Barbuda, Cuba and Grenada. Conversely, men are the majority in all Central American countries except Belize and Panama. The economically active migrant population from South America tends to be more evenly balanced between men and women.

For more than half of the countries in the Americas, the number and percentage of expatriates with tertiary education in the economically active population in their countries of residence exceeds that of those with an educational level lower than upper secondary education, both for men as for women. This is especially so for female expatriate workers from the Caribbean, where 40% or more of whom have tertiary education in most countries in this region. Also expatriates from Panama, Venezuela, Argentina, Chile, Canada and the United States, among other countries, present high percentages of migrant workers with this high level of training.

In contrast, migrant workers from Mexico, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Bolivia and Ecuador have low percentages of tertiary education, constituting the bulk of migration for less specialized jobs whose main destination is the United States for the first four countries; and Spain for the last two.


The economically active immigrant population is generally more severely affected during recessions than the native-born for several reasons, including because they are employed in sectors more dependent on cyclical variation such as construction, housing and food and because the renewal of their contracts by employers responds to economic prospects that turn unfavorable. Because immigrants constitute a more flexible portion of the economically active population, the employment of immigrants may be one of the ways in which the labor market adjusts to reductions in demand.

For the years 2008-2009, the highest unemployment rates in the United States and Europe were observed in workers from the Americas, followed by immigrants from other countries, and finally by native-born workers.

The unemployment rate among immigrant workers from the Americas in the United States and Europe increased from 5.3% in 2006 to 13.8% in 2009, while the rate for the native-born also increased, but from 6.7% to 9.1%. . The rate for immigrants from outside the Americas rose about 3.5 percentage points. From the perspective of the countries of origin, unemployment rates are especially unfavorable for immigrants from the countries of the Americas, exceeding 10% in most of them for men, and close to 15% for migrant workers from Bolivia, Colombia and Ecuador.

Likewise, the unemployment rates between the years 2006-2009 have almost tripled for workers in the Andean Region (especially in Ecuador) and Mexico, while for workers in the Caribbean and the Southern Cone they are the ones that have increased the least in terms of relative.

For immigrant women in the Americas, the unemployment picture was broadly similar to that of men.

A phenomenon that is frequently observed in difficult economic conditions is the increase in the participation rate of women, in this case of immigrant women, since they enter the active population in greater numbers, in an attempt to compensate for the drop in income. family member after the salaryman loses his job. Women often have better access to a part of the labor market that men do not easily seek or want, such as caring for the sick or the elderly, or cleaning activities. The increased participation of women under these conditions is known as the “additional worker effect”, and is one reason why women’s employment rate tends to remain higher than men’s during a recession.

Finally, the risk at this stage of the economic recovery is that unemployment in destination countries remains persistently high. In the United States, the unemployment rate for emigrants from the Americas in 2010 was 12%, slightly higher than the 11.8% rate observed in 2009. The situation in Spain may not be too different. It seems, therefore, that the kind of situation of low unemployment and abundant work that existed before 2008 is not yet very close. It will undoubtedly take a major recovery effort to reabsorb all the current surplus labor supply into the economically active population. The current demographic situation, with smaller youth cohorts, and a growing number of retirees in most countries in Europe and in the United States may,

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