January 28, 20016
By Kenneth Rapoza
People heading to the U.S. are fleeing an increasingly violent Latin America, according to the eighth annual World’s Most Violent Cities Report, released this week by the Mexico-based Citizens’ Council for Public Security and Criminal Justice.
The study cited cities in the Americas and southern Africa. No Asian or European cities were on the list. Of the top 50, Mexico accounted for the most dangerous of the lot with five murder capitals in all. Acapulco was ranked No. 4 with 903 homicides in 2015.
It might not be as bad as it looks for Mexico, however. On the plus side, the country had 12 cities in the top 50 in 2012, meaning the murder rate has declined in the country that sends the largest number of migrants to the United States, according to government figures.
Mexican-born immigrants accounted for approximately 28% of the 41.3 million foreign born in the United States in 2013, according to the non-partisan Migration Policy Institute in Washington DC.
Mexican nationals are the largest immigrant group in the country. India is the second largest, closely trailed by China which both accounted for about 5%. Philippinos make up 4% of the new arrivals here, followed by those coming from Vietnam, El Salvador, Cuba, and Korea at roughly 3% each. The Dominican Republic and Guatemala are around 2% as of 2013, according to the Migration Policy Institute. Immigrants from these 10 countries made up close to 60% of the U.S. immigrant population in 2013.
No Dominican Republic or Cuban cities appear on the Council’s Most Violent list, but San Salvador, the capital city of El Salvador, is No. 3 with nearly 2,000 murders last year. In 2014, San Salvador had a murder rate of 61.21 homicides per 100,000 inhabitants but it hit 111.03 in 2015: an increase of 81.41% in only one year.
Last October, NPR reported on how people were fleeing drug-related gang violence in El Salvador in hopes to find solace in an increasingly anti-immigrant America.
Caracas, Venezuela and San Pedra Sula of Honduras are even worse. No. 1 Caracas had a frighteningly high 3,946 murders in 2015 for a murder rate of 120 per 100,000 inhabitants. San Pedra had 885 murders for a rate of 111 homicides per 100,000.
All told, no immigrant group compares to the Mexicans. Numbers began rising in 1980 and steadily increased after the 1990s signing of the North American Free Trade Agreement. Their numbers have remained relatively steady as a percentage of the total, only because immigrants from countries classified as “other” have increased, according to data from the Migration Policy Institute.
Immigration remains a top concern for voters in the 2016 presidential campaign. While most of the controversy centers around the Middle East migrant crisis overtaking Europe and the U.S. acceptance of Syrian refugees, the Middle East and Muslim nations in Africa (MENA) combined equal 2.5% of the nation’s total immigrant population as of 2013. The Migration Policy Institute estimates that there are a little over a million migrants from the MENA region residing in the United States.
Migration from the MENA region is motivated by political unrest in those countries rather than the gang and drug violence in Latin America.
Middle East migration remains a hot button issue, too. The U.S. brought in 2,192 Syrian refugees in 2015, according to data from the Department of State Bureau of Population, Refugees, and Migration Office. More migrants came from Bhurma, Butan, Congo, Somalia and Iraq than Syria, which accounted for over half of the 66,517 refugees admitted last year.
The predominance of immigrants from Latin America started in the 1970s as European immigration slowed. Italian-born immigrants made up 13% of all foreign born in 1960, followed by those born in Germany and Canada at 10% each. No single country accounted for more than 15% of the total immigrant population until the Mexican migration boom began in the 1980s.