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The Environmental Impacts of Transnational Migration in the US Research Paper


Transnational migration has remained to be a critical subject in ethnographic studies. The movement of people from one region to another is a trend of development that is historical in nature. This means that most populations in the world reside in places or regions that are not their ancestral homes. The United States is one of the countries that harbor a lot of people from other countries and regions that surround the country. The presence of foreigners in the country and the need to check immigration in the country has been a subject of national concern in the recent years. This concern has come from the negative impacts of immigration in the United States.

More often than not, the focus has been on the social impacts of transnational migration in North America and the neighboring regions; that is, the Caribbean and South America. Contemporary demographic studies are expansive in nature. They focus on diverse impacts of demography, among them the social, economic, cultural, and environmental impacts of demography in a given region. It is critical to look into the impacts of transnational migration in the United States and the neighboring regions, with the need to enhance sustainable development as a way of catering for the environment. Therefore, this paper explores the environmental impacts of transnational migration in the United States and the border regions.

An overview of migration and the environment

According to research by Nawrotzki and Hunter (2011), climate change and its impacts have formed a volatile debate on public policy. This has, in turn, resulted in the rise in scholarly research about the dimensions of migration on the environment. This is applauded since the impacts of migration and the resultant human activities have been blamed for fueling damage of the natural ecosystems. This causes the environmental mayhem that is being witnessed across the globe today. While the United States is considered to be a developed country, most of the regions that border it are less developed. This implies that the neighboring regions are comprised of populations that can hardly sustain their livelihoods without encroaching on the natural environment.

Transnational migration in the region does not only focus on the movement of people into the United States as presupposed by a substantial number of scholars, but it also focuses on the emigration factor. Enforcement of the immigration policy in the United States has also seen the movement of populations from the country into the neighboring regions that are the supposed ancestral homes of these populations. In other words, it can be argued that the aspect of population pressure on the natural environment is an elaborate subject that needs deeper insight by researchers. Migration in the region results from a combination of factors, among them economic, political, social, as well as environmental push factors (Nawrotzki & Hunter, 2011).

Impacts of transnational migrations on natural landscapes

The North and South American regions have seen a higher scale of transnational migration over a long time. The movement of people from one region to another automatically results in pressure on the destined ecosystem. One of the notable trends in transnational migration in the region is the movement of people from Guatemala into the United States and vice versa. The environmental antecedents of this migration were explored in the research that was conducted by Taylor, Moran-Taylor and Ruiz (2006), which denoted that there is a combination of demographic forces that results in pressure on the natural environment in Guatemala. Having focused on the four main regions of Guatemala, the study found out that the migrants together with their remittances cause significant changes in the use and distribution of land in Guatemala. Figure 1.0 below depicts the regions of Guatemala in which the study focused:

Location of Guatemala and the main areas of study on transnational migration.
Figure 1.0 Location of Guatemala and the main areas of study on transnational migration. Source: Taylor, Moran-Taylor and Ruiz (2006), 43.

From the map, it can be noted that Guatemala is bordered by different countries, most of which are poor and cannot present economic opportunities. This is the main pull factor for immigrants from the country. Poverty is the main push factor for the majority of Guatemalans who live in poverty. The majority of them are forced to seek for greener pastures in countries like the United States, Mexico and El Salvador (Moran-Taylor & Taylor, 2010).

Migrants from the United States and other countries like Mexico come with money that helps them to convert the rain forests into fields of cattle grazing. They use the money to acquire more pieces of the rainforest land in which they conduct their economic activities. Several arguments can be derived from the findings of the research. From the findings, it is apparent that the migration of people in the region has a profound impact on the organization of communities in Guatemala. The acquisition and conversion of rainforest, which is a critical habitat, into economic activities is a breach of the conservation of the natural environment and an aspect of pressure on the natural environment.

The immigrants cannot impose the changes in the communities without the money. The economic empowerment that comes from their movement in North America is a factor that contributes to their empowerment. This spills over to the destruction of the natural ecosystem in Guatemala (Taylor, Moran-Taylor & Ruiz, 2006). The economic merits that come with transnational migration are outweighed by the resulting impact of the economic course that is taken by the immigrants. Without interference in the natural environment, the economic impacts can be considered to be far much positive (Moran-Taylor & Taylor, 2010).

Moran-Taylor and Taylor (2010) observed that not all migrants in Guatemala come with remittances. A relatively large number of migrants are deported back into Guatemala, especially from Mexico due to political and socioeconomic factors. Such migrants are forced to adapt peasant systems of agricultural production in order to support their livelihoods. Such systems are often unplanned and result in the encroachment of natural ecosystems. The natural ecosystems depict the sustainable practices in the conservation of the natural environment and their destruction destabilizes the natural environment (Moran-Taylor & Taylor, 2010).

The impact of transnational migration on the change of social norms that have an impact on the environment

One of the long held patterns of movement between North and South America regions is exemplified by the movement of a vast number of Mexicans in the United States. There is a considered number of Mexicans who still seek to enter the United States, either forcefully or through the legal means. However, one social trend that is notable among a substantial number of Mexicans is the consumption of drugs. Consumption of drugs is a concern by public health advocates, as well as the environmentalists. Substances that are released from the drugs are considered as part of the pollutants that impact negatively on the well-being of the natural environment.

A study that was conducted among the Mexican immigrants in the United States revealed a positive trend in drug consumption among the immigrants compared to the trends in the original Mexican populations. The study denoted a reduction in the level of cigarette smoking behavior among most of the Mexican-Americans who were born and raised in the United States. The researchers opined that there is a significant influence on patterns of social behavior among populations as a result of acculturation of groups of populations in new destinations (Tong et al., 2012).

Reduction in the levels of smoking among the assimilated Mexicans denotes a desirable change of social behavior, which can result in bettering the population through the maintenance of a free pollution environment. From an extrapolation of these findings, it can be argued that the change in smoking habits among the Mexican immigrants in the United States can go deeper into impacting on the smoking trends that seem to be at high levels in Mexico. The rationale behind the observation is that there is a common trend of movement between the two countries, and the Mexicans who emigrate from the United Stated can be resourceful in as far as sensitization of the local population in Mexico about the need to curb the trend of smoking is concerned (Tong et al., 2012).

This research is an indication of the forces of acculturation and association with new cultures in different nations as a result of transnational migration. However, it should also be noted that in a similar sense, there have been a lot of cases of movement of bandits from Mexico into the United States. These bandits and group of criminals are termed as part of the larger cartel of traders of hard drugs. This is a public health concern in the United States and the region in general.

Population pressure and transnational movement

Silvey and Lawson (1999) observed that classical studies about migration in the field of geography dwell on the developmental perspectives on migration. The link between migration and development has spilled into the neo-classical studies about migration. The most critical factor in the modern studies about migration in the United States and the regions that border it focus on the issues of sustaining populations. This emanates from the fact that transnational migration in the region has become a force behind the human insecurity. Therefore, researchers in the field of human geography focus on exploring the developmental relations that emerge from the transnational migration in the region.

A number of studies have been staged to ascertain the problem of population pressure and its impact on the balance between human population and the interaction with the natural environment. Population studies in the United States have continued to show the impact of immigration and the formation of social classes in the country. Social classes denote the development of people with different economic capabilities. The emergence of poor classes of people is a factor that contributes greatly to the problem of natural environment conservation (Squalli, 2009). Commissioning of a substantial number of demographic studies in North and South America has come out of the concern of increased movement; that is, controlled and uncontrolled movement.

Most of the migratory trends in the region are pegged on the differences in the distribution of economic resources. While this is an objective move, it is often associated with challenges in balancing socioeconomic, political and economic goals. Change in the structure of economic activities is witnessed as a result of an unprecedented number of people in certain regions. This number of people supersedes the ability of a given country to effectively pursue population sustainability goals. This case is common and applicable in the United States, which is the core target of most of the immigrants from most of the poorest states in South America (Squalli, 2009).


Transnational migration is a broad subject in this era of international development. This is an era that is characterized by increase in cross border interaction between states. However, it has been noted that the subject of transnational migration is fairly old. This is based on the fact that a lot of literature on the movement of communities and individuals within and between national borders has been documented in various historical texts. The research denotes three critical factors in transnational migration in the North and South American regions. This migration has impacts on the natural environment. These impacts are population pressure, the change in social behaviors of populations due to acculturation, and the effects on changes in economic trends and the impacts on the exploration of natural resources. There is need to enhance research about the attributes of transnational migration in the North and South American regions, which still exhibit increase in the patterns of movement of population between countries. The main focus of researchers should be on economic inequalities in the regions and how they enhance transnational migration and the interaction of populations with the natural environment.


Hunter, L. M., & Nawrotzki, R. (2011). Migration and the environment. Working Paper. Web.

Moran-Taylor, M. J., & Taylor, M. J. (2010). Land and leña: linking transnational migration, natural resources, and the environment in Guatemala. Population & Environment, 32(2/3), 198-215.

Silvey, R., & Lawson, V. (1999). Placing the migrant. Annals of the Association of American Geographers, 89(1), 121.

Squalli, J. (2009). Immigration and environmental emissions: A US county-level analysis. Population and Environment, 30(6), 247-260.

Taylor, M. J, Moran-Taylor, M. J., & Ruiz, D. R. (2006). Land, ethnic, and gender change: Transnational migration and its effects on Guatemalan lives and landscapes. Geoforum, 37, 41-61.

Tong, E. et al. (2012). A transnational study of migration and smoking behavior in the Mexican-origin population. American Journal of Public Health, 102(11), 2116-2122.

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Parker, E. (2020, May 22). The Environmental Impacts of Transnational Migration in the US [Blog post]. Retrieved from

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Parker, Evelynn. "The Environmental Impacts of Transnational Migration in the US." IvyPanda, 22 May 2020,

1. Evelynn Parker. "The Environmental Impacts of Transnational Migration in the US." IvyPanda (blog), May 22, 2020.


Parker, Evelynn. "The Environmental Impacts of Transnational Migration in the US." IvyPanda (blog), May 22, 2020.


Parker, Evelynn. 2020. "The Environmental Impacts of Transnational Migration in the US." IvyPanda (blog), May 22, 2020.


Parker, E. (2020) 'The Environmental Impacts of Transnational Migration in the US'. IvyPanda, 22 May.

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