Central American Migration Through Mexico

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Student Research Reports, Summer 2018

The tracks of La Bestia train passage in Veracruz, where tens of thousands of Central American migrants used to travel each year before the Southern Border Program. (Photo by Levi Vonk.)
The tracks of La Bestia train passage in Veracruz, where tens of thousands of Central American migrants used to travel each year before the Southern Border Program. (Photo by Levi Vonk.)

Central American Migration Through Mexico
By Levi Vonk

My research seeks to understand the kinds of legal relief that Central American migrants are eligible for in Mexico, and if that legal relief actually helps them integrate into Mexican society. I have previously conducted ethnographic research with Central American migrants in while on a Fulbright grant in Mexico, and have also worked with unaccompanied minors on their asylum cases in the US. While in Mexico, I conducted ethnographic research with several Central American migrants petitioning the Mexican state for legal status, including with migrants in working-class neighborhoods in Mexico City and at Las Patronas migrant shelter in Veracruz. During my work I interviewed dozens of migrants about their experiences migrating and motivations for staying in Mexico, as well as several experts in the field helping migrants apply for legal status. My preliminary findings indicate that Mexico’s “humanitarian visa,” offered to migrants who are victims of physical abuse while in the country, do not allow migrants to integrate into Mexican society and actually encourage them to leave the country. This may be because Mexico faces international pressure to accept migrants but has not apportioned the funds necessary to grant large numbers of people asylum. In short, it seems that humanitarian visas are offered to migrants as an alternative to asylum without granting them the rights that come with asylum proper. These findings can be used by immigration attorneys and activists in the future.

A humanitarian visa holder reaches upward over the Mexico City skyline. Without a work permit, he lives in one of the City's poorest and most dangerous neighborhoods. (Photo by Levi Vonk.)
A humanitarian visa holder reaches upward over the Mexico City skyline. Without a work permit, he lives in one of the City's poorest and most dangerous neighborhoods. (Photo by Levi Vonk.)

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