Migration from El Salvador under Bukele has been at record levels
|Monument to Our Distant Brothers, San Salvador|
Three Salvadoran girls, aged 9 years, 6 years and 18 months, were discovered in bushes on a small islet in the Rio Grande (Bravo) near Piedras Negras on Wednesday. Little is known publicly about how or why the girls ended up in this spot on the border with the US, but it is suspected they may have been abandoned there by migrant smugglers. A video from the Mexican government shows the moment when they were picked up by authorities in a boat.
For decades, a major reality for El Salvador has been the outward flow of its inhabitants towards the US. The discovery of these children at the border reminds us that the river northwards has not ceased under the presidency of Nayib Bukele. Today we take a look at the numbers behind migration as El Salvador enters 2023.
The multitude still leaving El Salvador
The only real statistics we have regarding the total number of Salvadorans leaving the country are reflected by the numbers reported as being "intercepted" or "encountered" at the southern US border by authorities. This includes both people crossing clandestinely and being captured, and those who cross openly at or outside ports of entry and turn themselves into authorities in order to request asylum. Since these numbers do not include persons who sneak in and were never "encountered," the actual numbers are assumed to be higher than these. They also do not include Salvadorans who may be found within the crowds of migrants desperately encamped on the Mexican side of the US border, and those who perished on the way, or are still en route.
The chart below incorporates the official statistics of US Customs and Border Patrol for the past 11 fiscal years (FY) of the US government. (A fiscal year runs from October 1 to the following September 30, so FY2022 ended in September 2022).
There might be some signs of slowing migration in recent months. After climbing steadily for the first six months of calendar 2022, the number of Salvadorans encountered at the southern US border declined the five months from July to November 2022. It's too early to tell if this trend will continue.
This chart, copied from US Customs and Border Patrol statistics, shows monthly number of Salvadorans apprehended at the US southern border from October 2021 through November 2022.
But Nayib Bukele and his government do not acknowledge the record flight of people from the country, and instead claim there is record improvement from the past. Throughout 2022, there has been a misleading use of statistics by Bukele and his ambassador to the US, Milena Mayorga, celebrating El Salvador's ranking as a sender of migrants to the US.
There has been a dramatic increase in migrants trying to cross at the US southern border in 2022 from countries, like Haiti, Cuba, Venezuela and Nicaragua, while migration from El Salvador has remained at a constant annual level. As a consequence, El Salvador's relative share of the migrants being apprehended has fallen. This means only that asylum seekers from these other countries make up a larger share of the total, but it does not mean, as we have seen, that fewer Salvadorans are leaving for the US each year.
Here's an example of a Bukele tweet.
Después de estar en el top 3 de los países que más migrantes enviaban a los Estados Unidos…— Nayib Bukele (@nayibbukele) November 17, 2022
¡Ahora no entramos ni al top 10!
Falta muchísimo por hacer, Roma no se construyó en un día; pero avanzamos a pasos agigantados.
Los únicos que no lo ven, son los que no quieren verlo. pic.twitter.com/8mu8Br8KI3
After being in the top 3 of the countries that sent the most migrants to the United States… Now we are not even in the top 10! There is still a lot to do, Rome was not built in a day; but we are advancing by leaps and bounds. The only ones who don't see it are the ones who don't want to see it.