E.g., 03/08/2021
E.g., 03/08/2021

South America

South America

With the exodus of more than 4. 5 million Venezuelans, South America is experiencing major change in migration flows and policies. Beyond the immediate migration crisis, the region has experienced more movement in recent years, chiefly for labor reasons, with Brazil the preferred destination for migration from outside the continent. Migration beyond South America is chiefly to the United States and Europe. The articles offered here sketch the dynamism of South America's migration trends and policies.

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An internally displaced Colombian family outside Bogota.
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A busy street in Bogotá, Colombia
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The number of people around the world forcibly displaced by conflict or persecution reached its highest total since World War II, with more than 51.2 million fleeing their country or displaced within it, the UN refugee agency reported in 2014. An estimated 13.6 million people have been displaced by conflicts in Syria and Iraq alone, constituting what the UN High Commissioner for Refugees dubbed a mega-crisis.

An event in Quito for día del Migrante

This country profile analyzes Ecuador's migration trends and examines how remittances and return migration have become an important policy focus for a country with an estimated 1.5 million to 2 million nationals living abroad, chiefly in the United States, Spain, and Italy. As waves of emigration occurred, the country also has experienced significant inflows of refugees and economic and lifestyle migrants.

Immigrants from South America made up 2.7 million (about 7 percent) of the United States' foreign-born population of 40.4 million in 2011. While the share may seem small, this population has grown 30 times its size since 1960, when about 90,000 South American immigrants resided in the country. This article examines the latest data on South American immigrants in the United States, including population size, geographic distribution, admission categories, and demographic and socioeconomic characteristics.

Unaccustomed to a large number of migrants, Chile has seen an increase in migrants in the past three decades. Cristián Doña-Reveco and Amanda Levinson examine how the country, still wedded to its dictator-era migration framework, is balancing shifting migration patterns with a piecemeal approach to migration policy.

Migration from Latin America to the United States and Europe appears to have slowed in the wake of the recent global financial crisis. As Jacqueline Mazza and Eleanor Sohnen of the Inter-American Development Bank report, flows between Latin American countries expanded in the 1990s and are still growing, crisis or not, and some countries are taking a more regional approach to managing migration.

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Colombia has more internally displaced persons (IDPs) than any other country in the world, the result of a 52-year civil war. Beyond improving the lives of its 7.3 million IDPs, the country faces a number of crucial migration issues as it works to achieve stability in the wake of an historic peace accord signed in late 2016. This country profile examines historical trends and current and future migration challenges in Colombia.

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Two significant migration shifts at the U.S.-Mexico border have been obscured by talk of walls and further border security: Mexicans no longer represent the top unauthorized crossers, replaced by Central Americans seeking protection, and flows are diversifying with increased arrivals of Cubans, Haitians, Asians, and Africans. This article sketches the evolving trends, which have key implications for U.S. and regional migration policy.

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With global displacement at a post-World War II high, the international community made some advances on refugee protection in 2016, but there were also steps backward. The United Nations held the first-ever refugee summit and some countries, including the United States and Canada, increased their resettlement commitments. Meanwhile, conflict intensified in some hotspots and publics turned against refugees, as this Top 10 article explores. 

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Smugglers and migrants adapted their paths in light of changing conditions in 2016, including the construction of walls and closure of borders. Cuban and Haitian migrants increasingly chose to make their way to the United States through South and Central America rather than by sea. Meanwhile, migrant flows to Europe have splintered into a wider range of routes, seeking new openings through the Western Balkans.

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In stark contrast to a Europe that is erecting new barriers and reinstituting border controls, other regions around the world are moving toward greater mobility for intraregional travelers and migrants. Regional blocs in South America and Southeast Asia have been working to ease intraregional movements of workers, and the African Union in 2016 launched a new biometric African passport.

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In the wake of a hurricane that has once again devastated Haiti, the United States quickly reversed its toughened policy toward the thousands of Haitian nationals arriving at the California-Mexico border without prior authorization. This Policy Beat examines the shifts in U.S. admission and deportation policy toward Haitian migrants since the 2010 earthquake, and other national and state developments on immigration.

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In contrast to increasingly restrictive approaches to migration in the global North—and recent skepticism towards Europe's free mobility project—South America is taking steps in the other direction, toward free movement for regional migrants. This article examines the emerging South American model and discusses its implications for migration in the region and for free movement in general.

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The Brazilian immigrant population in the United States doubled during the 1980s and almost tripled in the 1990s, but stabilized following the Great Recession. While this population has long included a significant share of unauthorized immigrants, Brazilians are increasingly coming to the United States through family, employment, and study channels. Learn more about Brazilian immigrants with this Spotlight.

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