As record numbers of migrants journey north to try to enter the U.S., one town in Brazil says immigration is draining the region of necessary workers.
Alpercata, located in the hills of southeastern Minas Gerais state, has seen a mass exodus since the pandemic took jobs and devastated Brazil‘s economy. Hundreds of households have made the choice to sell their belongings and take their children out of school to migrate to the U.S.
The town, which has a population of roughly 7,500, is quickly “emptying out,” Ana Paula Souza, who left Alpercata with her husband and infant son, said. Adding that “Everyone is leaving.”
Previous cycles of migration were generally centered around poor young men who would often return home. The current wave of migrants is centered around white-collar workers. Nurses, engineers, and city officials, who have been guaranteed employment in the town, are choosing to migrate north and leave positions that are hard to fill.
Municipal Schools in the town have lost 10% of their students so far this year, while Municipal Sports Secretary Jorge Estefesson said that enrollment in his soccer school was down by two-thirds from five years ago.
“We’re scared that in the future, we’re going to be an elderly city without young people,” Estefesson said.
U.S. asylum policy allows Brazilians along with some other nationalities to remain in the U.S. while they pursue their claims, which has led to 99% of Brazilian families apprehended at the border in the fiscal year 2021 gaining entry into the U.S. while processing their asylum case in immigration court.
According to U.S. Customs and Border Protection data, the number of Brazilians apprehended at the border this year ranked sixth when compared to other nationalities.
President Joe Biden rolled back a number of former President Donald Trump’s immigration policies upon taking office, including the “Remain in Mexico” program, which required non-Mexican migrants to wait in Mexico until their immigration court date in the U.S. A federal judge later ruled against Biden’s attempt to end the policy in August.
Souza now lives in Orlando, Florida, and bakes cakes to pay off the $15,000 the couple paid human smugglers to get them into the U.S. “The Americans don’t like to work so there are lots of jobs for immigrants,” she said.