Central America

Central America

Extraregional Migratory Flows in Transit as Complex Unbounded Emergency (Risk): Conceptual Challenges and Empirical Lessons in Costa Rica

Recent migratory flows transiting through Central America have led to unprecedented institutional and humanitarian responses across the sub-region. Between 2015 and 2016, the small Central American countries and Costa Rica in particular experienced at least two major “migration waves,” triggered by thousands of “extraregional migrants” in transit from Cuba, Haiti, and many countries from Asia and Africa who became stranded for months in Central America. The article examines how these recent and unusual migratory flows led to novel state responses, including the use of disaster risk management principles and operational mechanisms. Based on empirical data from Costa Rica, the article explores how the concept and notion of complex unbounded emergency (risk) may be appropriate in understanding the practical implications of this new migratory reality in terms of disaster risk reduction and management. It aims to shed new insights on the complexities of extraregional migratory flows, which are likely to continue into the foreseeable future.

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When Internal Migration Fails: A Case Study of Central American Youth Who Relocate Internally Before Leaving Their Countries

This paper examines the experiences of Central American youth who have attempted internal relocation before migrating internationally. Based on interviews and participant observation with Guatemalan, Honduran, and Salvadoran youth migrating through Mexico, this paper shows how youth from the Northern Countries of Central America turn to their domestic networks to escape labor exploitation and gang violence before undertaking international journeys. The paper further demonstrates how those domestic networks lead youth into contexts of poverty and violence similar to those they seek to escape, making their internal relocation a disappointment. The failure of their internal relocation attempts makes them turn to international migrant networks as their next option. This paper sheds light on the underexplored issue of internal migration among Central American youth and that migration’s synergy with Central American youths’ migration to the United States. The paper finds that internal relocation is unsuccessful when the internal destination fails to resolve the issues from which youth are attempting to escape. This failure ultimately triggers their departure from their home country.

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Migration Management and Changes in Mobility Patterns in the North and Central American Region

Since the beginning of the twenty-first century, changes have occurred in the regional dynamics of international migration and in the ways governments manage human mobility. This article argues that the migratory system connecting the three northern countries of Central America (Guatemala, El Salvador, and Honduras) with Mexico and the United States has not been accompanied by regional management of migratory flows. Instead, a succession of government plans and projects reveals a perspective marked by the effects of the “externalization” of US borders, leading to more complex migration routes and increased vulnerability of migrants. The article discusses how externalized control policies influence migratory spaces, routes, and timelines, and leave many stranded in transit countries before they eventually arrive at their intended destinations. Reconsidering the process of mobility in light of migration management policies would appropriately enlarge the traditional economic, social, cultural, and environmental factors that affect migration strategies.

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A Study and Analysis of the Treatment of Mexican Unaccompanied Minors by Customs and Border Protection

The routine human rights abuses and due process violations of unaccompanied alien children (UAC) by US Customs and Border Protection (CBP) have contributed to a mounting humanitarian and legal crisis along the US–Mexico border. In the United States, the treatment of UAC is governed by laws, policies, and standards drawn from the Flores Settlement, the Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act (TVPRA), and CBP procedures and directives, which are intended to ensure UAC’s protection, well-being, and ability to pursue relief from removal, such as asylum. As nongovernmental organizations and human rights groups have documented, however, CBP has repeatedly violated these legal standards and policies, and subjected UAC to abuses and rights violations. This article draws from surveys of 97 recently deported Mexican UAC, which examine their experiences with US immigration authorities. The study finds that Mexican UAC are detained in subpar conditions, are routinely not screened for fear of return to their home countries or for human trafficking, and are not sufficiently informed about the deportation process. The article recommends that CBP should take immediate steps to improve the treatment of UAC, that CBP and other entities responsible for the care of UAC be monitored to ensure their compliance with US law and policy, and that Mexican UAC be afforded the same procedures and protection under the TVPRA as UAC from noncontiguous states.

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US and Guatemalan Migration-Related Pandemic Policies: A View from Guatemala

The US response to the COVID-19 pandemic has been to fortify migration polices that violate the human rights of migrants. Beyond suspending hearings for asylum-seekers subject to the Migrant Protection Protocols (MPP), the US government has ordered the rapid repatriation of apprehended migrants, including asylum seekers and unaccompanied minors, has continued deportation proceedings and removals, and has suspended many legal migration processes. On April 10, the administration asserted its right, resulting from the “profound and unique public health risks posed by the novel (new) coronavirus” to impose visa sanctions on countries that deny or delay “the acceptance of aliens who are citizens, subjects, nationals or residents of that country” that impede the Department of Homeland Security’s (DHS’s) response to the pandemic. Expulsions, removals, and denial of access to asylum have become central to the US pandemic response, without the US offering evidence connecting the spread of the virus to persons arriving at US land borders. The situation unfolding in Guatemala is particularly illustrative.

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