Damage in Orient Bay on the French Carribean island of Saint-Martin, after the passage of Hurricane Irma (2017).
Lionel Chamoiseau/Getty Images
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Hurricanes Drive Immigration to the US

Why hurricane refugees are more likely to come from some countries than others.
In the last few weeks, hurricanes Harvey, Irma and Katia have cut paths of destruction in the Caribbean, Mexico and the U.S.

While recovery and reconstruction will be an immense effort in Houston and Miami, it will likely be slower in poorer and smaller countries outside the U.S. There, many people suffering from the aftermath of these storms may eventually choose to move elsewhere. How much new immigration can the U.S. expect in response to what may be the most destructive hurricane season the Americas has ever seen? 

We come to this question having worked for more than a decade on how international migration benefits migrants’ countries of origin. For example, households back home benefit from monetary remittances sent by migrants, which fund small businesses and schooling and reduce child labor. Migrants also send remittances to help families cope with bad weather, such as droughts and hurricanes.

In new research, we turn to a related question: When people are hit by natural disasters, is international migration one way in which they cope with the aftermath? The answer isn’t obvious, but our data suggest that they do, under certain circumstances.
Understanding how immigration responds to major events in other countries helps policymakers understand the consequences of immigration policy. Immigration policies affect whether new migration can happen in response to a disaster overseas, and whether the migration happens via legal or undocumented channels.
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