Immigration and Emigration

Recently I have been reading too much about the world economy, too much because it is depressing. One of the interesting signs of the times is the dramatic decrease in illegal immigrants trying to enter the US.


“The number of Border Patrol apprehensions declined 61 percent from 1,189,000 in 2005 to 463,000 in 2010 (see Figure 1).

“The decrease in apprehensions between 2005 and 2010 may be due to a number of factors including changes in U.S. economic conditions and border enforcement efforts. Border apprehensions in 2010 were at their lowest level since 1972. Apprehensions previously peaked at 1,676,000 in 2000. The all-time apprehension record was 1,693,000 in 1986 immediately preceding passage of the Immigration Reform and Control Act (IRCA), which allowed the legalization of several million unauthorized immigrants, established sanctions for employers who knowingly hired unauthorized immigrants, and provided for increased border enforcement”.

Source is a DHS.gov pdf download.

The same report shows the sources of the illegal immigrants, it gets as granular as showing 690 from Canada in 2010, Panama is not on the list, so if there were any illegals from Panama going to the US the number was below 690. The number from Mexico dropped from 1,189,031 in 2005 to 463.283 in 2010, a significant change in any statistical analysis.

If you consider the possibility suggested, that the US economy is a reason that fewer people are attempting illegal entry, I wondered how that effected Panama and emigration from the US to Panama.

According to the US Department of State, Panama is growing, those of us who live here know that is true.

‘GDP growth in 2009 was 3.2%, reflecting a slowing of the robust growth of 10.1% seen in 2008. Although growth slowed in 2009, due to the global economic downturn, it has improved in 2010 and is still one of the most positive growth rates in the region. Growth has been fueled by the construction, transportation, maritime, and tourism sectors and Panama Canal-related activities. As a result of this growth, government deficit as a percentage of GDP dropped to 43% in 2009, and government-issued debt is classified as the lowest rung of investment grade. Socially, poverty has fallen from 1997 to 2008 – overall poverty fell from 37.3 to 32.7%, and extreme poverty fell from 18.8% to 14.4%.”

US State Dept

I know a large number of people who fall into the extreme poverty number here in Boquete. They own their land, they own their humble homes, they own livestock, grow food but have no money. They are happier than many wealthy people I know in the US.

Good data on immigration into Panama is difficult to find online. The Ministry of Immigration web site is a shadow of what it was under the last government and lacks any real information. the best I could find was from a survey done in 2007 as published in an article in Barrons Magazine.

“New Global Initiatives Inc., hired Zogby International to do surveys of adult Americans on the subject of relocation outside the U.S. With more than 115,000 respondents, we have the largest and, as far as we know, the only database on this topic.”

These results project the results of the surveys onto the entire U.S. population. The numbers are for households, not individuals.

  • 1.6 million U.S. households have already made the decision to relocate. That figure has remained stable over the year and a half during which seven surveys were conducted.
  • Another 1.8 million households are seriously considering relocation and are likely to do it.
  • 7.7 million households are “somewhat seriously” considering relocation and “may” do it.
  • Nearly 3 million households are seriously considering the purchase of a vacation home or other property outside the U.S., and another 10 million are “somewhat” seriously considering it.

Adding it up, almost 10% of U.S. households are looking at leaving the country, and another 10% are considering living outside the country part time. This silent emigration is ignored by nearly every population analyst.”

What is even more interesting than the numbers is that the age skews young, not retirees. The 24-35 age group was the highest in looking off shore. Perhaps because the world has been shrinking due to technology they were ahead of the game in seeing a shift occurring.

Barrons Link

New Global Initiatives has some of the most interesting data on immigration into Panama and Mexico. This chart caught my interest. The table below is form this 72 page download.

The numbers seem extraordinarily low considering what I see in Panama. Howver I also know that the vast majority of expats I see here are seasonal and are using the tourist status, six months here, six months there. We also lack number for the past five years.

One anecdotal observation is the increase in younger people. In 2006 when I arrived most english speakers had either grey hair or no hair. Now a significant number have young children and are creating businesses in Panama.

What does all of this say about our Brave New World, it’s changing.

While many American politicians scream about protecting their borders from the hordes coming from the south, many Americans are packing their bags and heading south. Heading to countries that want their initiative, penisions and education to create businesses and jobs. The tide may be shifting to where Mexico and Panama will need to start guarding their borders from illegal aliens from the north.

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