E.g., 01/18/2021
E.g., 01/18/2021

Central America & the Caribbean

Central America & the Caribbean

The countries of Central America's Northern Triangle (El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras) have seen a significant number of their citizens migrate to the United States. Immigrants from the Caribbean represent half of all Black immigrants in the United States. As such, the ties between these countries and their diasporas have taken on new importance, as has the integration of these immigrants in their country of settlement. Research here explores the demographics, migration flows, human-capital development, interconnected policy realities, and outcomes for immigrants from Central America and the Caribbean. (For research specific to Mexico, see North America.)

Recent Activity

Mujeres y la bandera de Honduras
Articles
Group of women and girls pose with Honduran flag
Articles
Reports
August 2019
By  Randy Capps, Doris Meissner, Ariel G. Ruiz Soto, Jessica Bolter and Sarah Pierce
Commentaries
July 2019
By  Andrew Selee, Silvia E. Giorguli-Saucedo, Claudia Masferrer and Ariel G. Ruiz Soto
Commentaries
July 2019
By  Andrew Selee, Silvia E. Giorguli-Saucedo, Claudia Masferrer and Ariel G. Ruiz Soto
Border Patrol agents and child migrants

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Books
October 2016
By  Kathleen Newland, Elizabeth Collett, Kate Hooper and Sarah Flamm
Fact Sheets
January 2016
By  Marc R. Rosenblum and Isabel Ball
Reports
December 2015
By  Victoria Rietig and Rodrigo Dominguez-Villegas
Reports
August 2015
By  Faye Hipsman and Doris Meissner

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U.S. Marine secures barbed-wire fencing at the California-Mexico border.

The Trump administration took sweeping action in 2018 to slow legal immigration, make life harder for some immigrants already in the United States, rebuff would-be asylum seekers, and reduce refugee resettlement. Shaping a narrative of crisis at the border, the administration significantly changed the U.S. asylum system, deployed troops and tear gas, and separated families—yet Central American migrants continued to arrive.

Salvadoran kids

El Salvador is the smallest country in Central America yet the most densely populated. A stagnant economy, high levels of crime and violence, and natural disasters have pushed growing numbers of people to migrate without authorization or seek asylum abroad, mostly in the United States. This article explores historical and contemporary emigration from El Salvador.

Honduran boy

Since fiscal year 2010, more than 70,000 immigrant children have applied for Special Immigrant Juvenile (SIJ) status, a pathway to a green card for youth who have been abused or neglected by their parents. Based on interviews with SIJ applicants, judges, and attorneys, this article provides an overview of the SIJ program and identifies limitations on access.

A woman walks alongside a train in Mexico.

In recent years, women from Central America have begun to make up a greater share of migrant apprehensions in Mexico and at the U.S. Southwest border. Systemic insecurity, poverty, and corruption are among the factors driving women and others to flee. This article explores the increase in female migration from Central America and the challenges these women face on their journey.

In 2016, some 1.1 million Dominican immigrants lived in the United States, up from just 12,000 in 1960. Dominicans are highly concentrated in the New York metro area, and they and their descendants comprise the fifth-largest U.S. Hispanic group. This article profiles Dominican immigrants in the United States, finding them more likely to come via family ties and have lower incomes and less education than immigrants overall. 

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Audio
June 25, 2014

The flow of unaccompanied children from Central America and Mexico to the United States has surged 90 percent since last year, with government officials predicting that it might reach 90,000 by the end of the fiscal year in September—and perhaps 130,000 next year. This telebriefing discusses factors behind the flows as well as short- and longer-term policy options for improving how the U.S. immigration system interacts with this population with distinct needs.

Video, Audio
March 12, 2014

This event with UN High Commissioner for Refugees António Guterres features findings from UNHCR’s report, Children on the Run, which examines the increasing numbers of children from Central America and Mexico who head off alone to find refuge in the United States, fleeing violence, insecurity, and abuse.

Video, Audio
February 27, 2014

This panel discussion on unaccompanied minors focuses on a report by Kids in Need of Defense and the Center for Gender & Refugee Studies at UC Hastings College of the Law, whose primary conclusion is that children face a U.S. immigration system created for adults that is not required to consider the child’s best interests.

Video, Audio
February 7, 2014

This panel discussion offers perspectives on border policy management from leading officials in the Canadian, Mexican, and U.S. governments, and showcases the MPI book, "Managing Borders in an Increasingly Borderless World."

Video
February 5, 2014

During this public briefing in Guatemala City (conducted in both English and Spanish), the Co-Directors of the Migration Policy Institute-convened Regional Migration Study Group, MPI President Demetrios G.

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Recent Activity

Articles

Si bien se ha prestado mucha atención a los centroamericanos recién llegados a la frontera entre los Estados Unidos y México, casi la mitad de los aproximadamente 3.5 millones que vivían en los Estados Unidos en 2017 llegaron antes de 2000. Aproximadamente un tercio son ciudadanos estadounidenses y tienden a participar en la fuerza laboral con más frecuencia que otros extranjeros y estadounidenses. Descubra más en este artículo lleno de datos.

Articles

While much attention has been paid to recent Central American arrivals at the U.S.-Mexico border, nearly half of the approximately 3.5 million Central Americans resident in the United States in 2017 arrived before 2000. About one-third are naturalized U.S. citizens, and they tend to participate in the labor force at a higher rate than foreign- and U.S.-born adults. Discover more about this population in this data-rich article.

Reports
August 2019

How did the U.S. border enforcement picture go in the span of two years from the lowest levels of illegal immigration since 1971 to a spiraling border security and humanitarian crisis? This report draws on enforcement and other data as well as analysis of changing migration trends and policies to tell this story. The authors outline key elements for a new strategy that can succeed over the long term.

Commentaries
July 2019

Dado el incremento de los flujos migratorios provenientes de Centroamérica, el pasado mes de junio de 2019, los Estados Unidos y México acordaron tomar una serie de medidas para reducir los flujos irregulares. Sin embargo, será muy difícil mantener estos esfuerzos de corto plazo, debido a una debilidad institucional crónica y a estructuras de política pública poco planificadas en ambos países. Este comentario ofrece cinco recomendaciones a ambos países considerando soluciones de mediano y largo plazo para disuadir la migración irregular y, al mismo tiempo, garantizar que aquellos que busquen protección tengan un proceso justo.

Commentaries
July 2019

Amid surging migration from Central America, the United States and Mexico in June 2019 agreed to a series of enforcement measures. Yet these near-term efforts will be difficult to maintain given chronic institutional weaknesses and poorly thought-out policy structures in both countries. This commentary, by the presidents of MPI and El Colegio de México, offers a set of long-term, collaborative solutions to dissuade illegal migration while ensuring fairness to those seeking protection.

Video
July 9, 2019

This event features a smart conversation by a range of experts on U.S.-Mexico border conditions, looking at policy responses by both countries and regional cooperation.

Articles

Approximately 11,500 unaccompanied children were apprehended at the U.S.-Mexico border in May, putting this year on track to exceed 2014's surge. As the U.S. government struggles to care for these child migrants, with public outrage mounting over reports of unsafe, filthy conditions in initial Border Patrol custody, the failure of the executive branch and Congress to plan for increased shelter and care demands are increasingly apparent, as this article explores.

Commentaries
June 2019

While safe third-country agreements appear to hold the potential of deterring new asylum claims, experience suggests this may be a false promise. As the Trump administration explores the possibility of such agreements with Mexico and Guatemala, this commentary examines the evidence of safe third-country arrangements in Europe, finding them difficult to enforce and playing little role in deterring new claims.

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