Beyond the Border: Policy Responses for Central American Migration

Over the past two years, Central American migration to the United States has become a central security and immigration concern and a centerpiece in the current U.S. administration’s efforts to secure the U.S.-Mexico border. However, given changing U.S. policies, growing insecurity in the Northern Triangle (El Salvador, Honduras and Guatemala), and the evolving migrant demographics of more women and children heading north, Mexico also faces significant policy challenges in addressing the 400,000+ Central American migrants moving through its territory each year.

This Strauss Center-sponsored Policy Research Project (PRP) will take a Mexican policy perspective on an issue that is often viewed primarily as a U.S. challenge. It will grapple with the complicated questions that Mexico faces as a migration country of origin, transit corridor and destination for international migrants. The PRP will cover the security concerns (gangs, drug-trafficking groups and weak institutions) that force Central Americans to flee their communities; the overlap of migrant smuggling routes with organized criminal networks within Mexico that tax, exploit, extort and attack migrants with almost complete impunity; the current Mexican policy efforts both to protect these individuals, process their asylum claims and enforce immigration laws; and finally, the U.S. border and immigration policies that determine Central Americans’ futures once they reach the United States. Throughout the class, students will also focus on efforts to secure Mexico’s southern border with Guatemala (e.g., its own nascent “border wall”), Mexicans’ often hesitant attitudes toward Central American migration, and various civil society responses throughout the country.  

Throughout the class, students will conduct research for two PRP clients with the aim of assisting each client in better responding to issues related to Central American migration. They will also have the opportunity to hear from a range of guest speakers, including Central American officials; Mexican government officials who focus on migration and security; heads of Mexican migrant shelters; Mexican immigration NGOs; Central American migrants themselves; U.S. Border Patrol agents and ICE officials; U.S. and Mexican immigration lawyers; journalists covering Central American migration. There will also be opportunities for most, if not all, students to conduct interviews and field research in Mexico and along the U.S.-Mexico border.

Name of Client(s):

Sin Fronteras (Mexican non-governmental organization focused on migration)