Seeking Refuge: Central American Migration to Mexico, the United States, and Canada

Seeking Refuge: Central American Migration to Mexico, the United States, and Canada

Seeking Refuge: Central American Migration to Mexico, the United States, and Canada

Seeking Refuge: Central American Migration to Mexico, the United States, and Canada

Synopsis

The political upheaval in Nicaragua, El Salvador, and Guatemala had a devastating human toll at the end of the twentieth century. A quarter of a million people died during the period 1974-1996. Many of those who survived the wars chose temporary refuge in neighboring countries such as Honduras and Costa Rica. Others traveled far north, to Mexico, the United States, and Canada in search of safety. Over two million of those who fled Central America during this period settled in these three countries.

In this incisive book, Maréa Cristina Garcéa tells the story of that migration and how domestic and foreign policy interests shaped the asylum policies of Mexico, the United States, and Canada. She describes the experiences of the individuals and non-governmental organizations--primarily church groups and human rights organizations--that responded to the refugee crisis, and worked within and across borders to shape refugee policy. These transnational advocacy networks collected testimonies, documented the abuses of states, re-framed national debates about immigration, pressed for changes in policy, and ultimately provided a voice for the displaced.

Garcéa concludes by addressing the legacies of the Central American refugee crisis, especially recent attempts to coordinate a regional response to the unique problems presented by immigrants and refugees--and the challenges of coordinating such a regional response in the post-9/11 era.

Excerpt

To leave one’s country in search of refuge, to save one’s
family, one’s community, meant facing the unknown,
and not knowing what would happen tomorrow or
whether the place one had chosen as temporary refuge
would open its doors and warmly welcome those fleeing
terror and death.

RIGOBEETA MENCHÚTUM

The political upheaval in Nicaragua, El Salvador, and Guatemala in the last decades of the twentieth century had a devastating human toll. A quarter of a million people died during the period 1974–96, and over one million people were internally displaced, forced to find refuge in other areas of their own countries. Many of those who survived the warfare and the human rights abuses chose temporary refuge in neighboring countries such as Costa Rica and Honduras, living anonymously as illegal immigrants or as documented refugees in government-run camps. When the camps filled up, or when their safety or economic survival was once again threatened, Nicaraguans, Salvadorans, and Guatemalans traveled further north, to Mexico, the United States, and Canada. Over two million of those who fled Central America during this period settled in these three countries.

This book tells the story of that migration and how these governments responded to the refugees’ presence. It also tells the story of the individuals, groups, and organizations that responded to the refugee crisis and worked within and across national borders to shape a more responsive refugee policy. During this period Mexico, the United States, and Canada were engaged in discussions of free trade but were more interested in facilitating the free movement of capital than in addressing the human migration that inevitably followed from such policies. Likewise, they and other nations in the Northern Hemisphere ignored the refugee crisis created . . .

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