An international survey of illegal immigration into the United States throws cold water on claims by advocates that many are seeking to escape homegrown crime and gang violence and are instead heading north to take jobs.

The survey from the International Organization for Migration found, for example, that 91 percent of Guatemalans emigrated to the U.S. for economic reasons.

IOM teamed up with the Guatemalan government to study immigration and money transferred from the U.S. back to Guatemala and found that less than 1 percent claimed they fled the Central American nation to escape gang violence and crime, two reasons often cited by pro-immigration groups pushing to open U.S. borders.

The Center for Immigration Studies highlighted the report on its blog Monday to draw attention to the evidence that economic gains draw illegals more than avoiding crime.

"As the report shows, migration is multi-causal. However, the immigration narrative in the United States has crafted a monocausal ‘migration crisis' — that cause being violence. As a result, causes such as economic migration and family reunification are glaringly absent from the conversation. But as the Guatemalan case demonstrates, economic reasons and family reunification can be, and often are, predominant push and pull factors. Without recognizing these issues within the immigration debate, policies seeking to rectify the U.S. immigration system will fail," wrote CIS analyst Kausha Luna.

Groups critical of opendoor immigration policies have long warned that illegal immigrants are gobbling up jobs in the U.S., especially in rural areas where jobs are scarce.

According to her translation of the survey found that 91 percent of Guatemalans emigrate to the United States for economic reasons.

  • 56.8 percent of Guatemalans migrate in search of better employment.
  • 32.9 percent to improve their income.
  • 1.2 percent to buy a home.
  • 0.1 percent to open businesses.
  • 3.7 percent migrate for family reunification.
  • 0.3 percent migrate due to violence.
  • 0.2 percent migrate as a result of extortion.
  • 0.2 migrate because of gang problems.

Paul Bedard, the Washington Examiner's "Washington Secrets" columnist, can be contacted at pbedard@washingtonexaminer.com