This paper examines the mixed-motive migration of unaccompanied minors from Central America’s Northern Triangle states (Guatemala, Honduras, and El Salvador). Using data from a 2016 survey carried out in 10 shelters for unaccompanied child migrants run by a Mexican government child welfare agency, the paper identifies the immigrating minor’s motives, which are oftentimes mixed. Some of the key findings include:
- Around one-third of the child migrants surveyed had mixed motives, including both forced and voluntary reasons for migrating.
- Violence appears most often as a reason for migrating among minors with mixed motives, as opposed to the search for better opportunities, which appears more often as an exclusive motive.
- Significant differences between the three nationalities are observed: relatively few Guatemalan minors indicated violence as a motive, and few displayed mixed motives, as opposed to Hondurans, and especially Salvadorans.
- The minors fleeing violence, searching for better opportunities, and indicating both motives at the same time were largely mature male adolescents. The minors mentioning family reunification as their sole motive were predominantly girls and young children.
- Violence was the motive that mixed the most with other motivations.
The results indicate that binary formulations regarding forced and voluntary migration are often inadequate. The implications of these findings include the need to consider forced reasons for migrating in the context of mixed-motive migration, the need for in-depth, individual asylum screening, and the need for more flexible policy approaches that are inclusive of mixed-motive migration.
Heightened focus on the “illegal immigrant” suggests that persons without status constitute a new phenomenon, but the issue of authorization to enter and remain in the United States stretches back to the end of the nineteenth century. One agency working with Ellis Island-era immigrants in danger of deportation was the Saint Raphael Society for the Protection of Italian Immigrants. This post examines some of the Society’s records, which includes stories and photographs of persons in danger of deportation.