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Migrants paid $2.2 billion trying to reach the US, most going to smugglers

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New report has interesting migration findings

U.S. (KYMA, KECY/CNN) - Migrants from three countries spend over $2 billion every year to try reaching the United States, and a new report revealed how most of that money goes to smugglers.

People from Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador have been spending billions, as shown by surveys taken on thousands of households.

"That is an extreme amount of money," stated MIT associate professor Sara William. "That $2.2 billion is all paid for by the migrants themselves, so the risks, both in terms of debt and personal risk, is borne by the migrant."

The Migration Policy Institute's (MPI) report, which can be read here, shows the lengths these families are willing to go in order to migrate, though the cost of migration can be difficult for many.

Not accounting for legal migration, the money that goes towards smugglers can reach up to $1.7 billion annually, while caravan travel adds up to about $230 million per year.

Ariel Ruiz, lead co-author of the report, mentions how these large amounts of money could be spent in other positive ways, such as public works projects.

"It's important not just to talk about the cost, but also to talk about the potential and opportunity that are being siphoned away," says Ruiz.

Older reports from other researchers found that migration can cost up to $4 billion when trying to get the U.S. from Mexico.

The average cost of a smuggler is about $7,500, which includes food and smuggler fees, while lone migrants can spend about $2,900.

Some rack up debt to these smugglers and can be difficult to pay off, whether the migration was successful or not.

According to the report, one of the main reasons for migration is for economic freedom, as well as escaping violence and food insecurity.

"To really address the root causes of migration will take years, if not a decade, to actually address everything that we're seeing," Ruiz stated.

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