Asylum-seekers’ stories point to a labor shortage in Central America?

A core feature of the tales told by many asylum-seekers is that criminal gangs tried to force them to join. The sought-after gang member thus fled from Honduras, for example, and couldn’t find safety in Guatemala, Belize, or Mexico (since the gangs are multinational and sufficiently organized to hunt down potential labor across borders?). Thus the former Honduran finds him or herself, along with some children, living in Texas (maybe soon in San Francisco or Oakland?), collecting welfare, and going through a multi-year asylum process.

I wonder if this shows that there is a labor shortage in Honduras. The population has grown from 1.5 million in 1950 to over 9 million today (Wikipedia). Yet criminal gangs cannot find volunteers to join in the activities and share in the profits. They are forced to recruit new members, whom they will be responsible for paying enough to afford housing, food, clothing, etc., at gunpoint. American criminal enterprises, on the other hand, get their employees by voluntary processes.

It seems reasonable to assume that a gang seeks only the minimum number of required members for its criminal goals (just as non-criminal employers try to avoid hiring surplus staff). A $1 million profit from dealing drugs, for example, isn’t so exciting if it has to be split among 1,000 members.

Can we infer from the above stories and assumptions that there is an acute labor shortage in Honduras compared to the U.S.? If not, why would gangs recruit members by force?

13 thoughts on “Asylum-seekers’ stories point to a labor shortage in Central America?

  1. Or perhaps this is evidence that Hondurans are less prone to criminality than Americans, and letting them in will cause a decline in per-capita criminality in the USA. The fact that most low-level drug dealers make less per hour than they would flipping burgers at McDonalds lends supports to that hypothesis.

  2. If you consider Honduras a failing state then gang recruitment is analog of military draft. Gangs need low-paid recruits to fight turf battles. But it is as likely to be a tall story based on reality.

  3. “American criminal enterprises, on the other hand, get their employees by voluntary processes.”

    Is that true? If you watch The Wire, which is based on David Simon’s experience reporting on crime in Baltimore, then you’ll see that the US gangs are not getting their employees solely by voluntary processes.

    The LA PD agrees. Their page on why young people join gangs ( says “Some members are forced to join if their membership will contribute to the gang’s criminal activity.”

    • So LAPD broadcasts from its web site that they routinely participate in the imprisonment of innocent people? (how can it be reasonable to arrest, prosecute, and incarcerate people for acts that were entirely involuntary?)

    • So true! The American gangs are pushed to automate more work in order to stay competitive and support American wages.
      And for Hondurans, why join a local gang if you can seek asylum in the US, then become a congressman and get paid a very decent salary kicking Trump and legally mobbing those in possession of Benjamins?

  4. Do you realize how many Einsteins the Central America is losing daily? This is not funny! the Honduran relativity is laid bare while the field theory geniuses are all laboring fields of California.

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