Migration Transformed into Crisis
Since the 1980:s border policies in both Mexico and the United States have transformed the outflow of migrants from Central America. By the turn of the 21st century the outflow of migrants began to be called a humanitarian crisis by civil society. Priscilla Solano at the Department of Sociology in Lund has published the article "Migrating through the Corridor of Death: The Making of a Complex Humanitarian Crisis" together with Douglas Massey at the Princeton School of Public and International Affairs.
Prior to 1980, there was little migration from Central America to the United States. Ten years later, in 1990 the undocumented populations of Central Americans living in the United States had risen from estimated 68,000 people to 458,000. In 2018 the figure was 1,800,000.*
Priscilla Solano and Douglas Massey's article, published in the Journal on Migration and Human Security, examines "the origins and evolution of the humanitarian crisis that is presently unfolding in Mexico's “corridor of death,” within which a large number of deaths and disappearances have been recorded in recent years".
Crisis of multiple challenges
Solano and Massey make use of the concept of “complex humanitarian crisis” meaning a complicated crisis which occurs when multiple challenges stack on top of one another. The authors describe how the outflows of migrants from Central America became transformed into a crisis by uncompromising immigration and border policies enacted in both Mexico and the United States.
In order to trace and map out the development of a complex humanitarian crisis the authors begin by tracing the origins of Central American migration to Cold War policies pursued by United States during the 1980s.
Central American migration has been further complicated by gang violence and climate change to create a “complex humanitarian emergency".
The Securitization of Migration
During the Cold War in the 1980s, President of the United States Ronald Reagan declared border control an issue of “national security,” warning Americans of “a tidal wave of refugees". Solano and Massey write:
– Reagan's linking of undocumented migration to national security was the leading edge of a broader trend in immigration policy known as the securitization of migration.
International migration has increasingly been “securitized” and Central American migration has been further complicated by gang violence and climate change to create a “complex humanitarian emergency".
Better understanding practical realities
Solano and Massey's article further draws on annual reports of Mexico's "Network for the Documentation of Migrant Defense Organizations" (REDODEM Red de Documentación de las Organizaciones Defensoras de Migrantes) to construct a statistical profile of transit migrants and the humanitarian threats they face.
These reports allow the authors to better understand the practical realities of the “complex humanitarian crisis” facing undocumented migrants, both as unauthorized border crossers and as transit migrants moving between the southern frontiers of Mexico and the United States.
Considering extended geographies
The article ends by suggesting some policy recommendations that need to be addressed. Governments need for example to consider extended geographies beyond borders and consider spaces in transit.
The authors also assess the current refugee protection regime to be ill-matched to the needs and vulnerabilities of today’s migrants. More legal pathways should be considered in the region, and governments should instead scale back on the securitization and criminalization of migration, which have made movement an increasingly precarious and risk-filled activity.
Finally the article identifies the need for humanitarian and human rights agencies to find new ways to work conjointly and in parallel with governments to better meet the needs of migrants in the 21st Century.
- Priscilla Solano is a Doctor of Sociology at the Department of Sociology at Lund University. Priscilla Solano's personal page on The Department of Sociology website.
- Douglas Massey is a Henry G. Bryant Professor of Sociology and Public Affairs at The Princeton School of Public and International Affairs. Learn more on Douglas Massey's personal profile.
*The numbers shown above (estimated undocumented population) were found in the article: "Migrating through the Corridor of Death: The Making of a Complex Humanitarian Crisis"
The article "Migrating through the Corridor of Death: The Making of a Complex Humanitarian Crisis" can be found in the Lund University Research Portal.
Read the article, published in the Journal on Migration and Human Security, on journals.sagepub.com