Skip to Main Content
Have library access? Log in through your library
Seeking Refuge

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

María Cristina García
Copyright Date: 2006
Edition: 1
Pages: 289
  • Cite this Item
  • Book Info
    Seeking Refuge
    Book Description:

    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, María Cristina García 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. García 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.

    eISBN: 978-0-520-93943-1
    Subjects: Sociology

Table of Contents

Export Selected Citations Export to NoodleTools Export to RefWorks Export to EasyBib Export a RIS file (For EndNote, ProCite, Reference Manager, Zotero, Mendeley...) Export a Text file (For BibTex)
  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
    (pp. ix-xiv)
  4. List of Abbreviations
    (pp. xv-xvi)
    (pp. 1-12)

    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...

    (pp. 13-43)

    The revolutions in Nicaragua, El Salvador, and Guatemala were each the product of decades of struggles over land, resources, and power. However, what began as localized conflicts became international crises that affected dozens of nations, including neighboring Costa Rica, Honduras, and Mexico; hemispheric allies such as the United States and Canada; and even Cuba, the Soviet Union, and the European Community. Thousands of Central Americans died, and millions were uprooted as a consequence of the domestic and foreign policy decisions of these various actors. But just as local political conflicts became internationalized, so, too, did their eventual resolution. The negotiated...

  7. 2 DESIGNING A REFUGEE POLICY: Mexico as Country of First Asylum
    (pp. 44-83)

    Mexico takes pride in its long tradition of accommodating the persecuted and the displaced. In the twentieth century, over two hundred thousand people fleeing persecution sought refuge in Mexico. These included Irish, Turkish Jews, Spanish Republicans, Eastern Europeans, Lebanese, Cubans, Chileans, Argentines, Brazilians, Dominicans, Uruguayans, and Americans.¹ Given this tradition, a long list of intellectuals and political leaders have exiled themselves to Mexico at some point in their careers: José Martí, Leon Trotsky, Pablo Neruda, Rómulo Gallegos, Gabriel García Márquez, Augusto Monterroso, Luis Cardoza y Aragón, Fidel Castro, Héctor Campora, and Seki Sano. Even César Augusto Sandino and Farabundo Martí,...

  8. 3 REFUGEES OR ECONOMIC MIGRANTS? The Debate over Accountability in the United States
    (pp. 84-118)

    Like Mexico, the United States became a reluctant host to Central American refugees. By 1987, 88 percent of all Central Americans who chose external migration were either in Mexico or in the United States, and only a small fraction were granted asylum.¹ Between 500,000 and 750,000 Salvadorans, Guatemalans, and Nicaraguans were believed to be in Mexico, and over 1 million in the United States.² Migration to Mexico and the United States was not a new phenomenon; Central Americans had traveled to both countries as sojourners and immigrants since the nineteenth century, albeit in much smaller numbers.³ As a result of...

  9. 4 HUMANITARIANISM AND POLITICS: Canada Opens Its Doors to Central America
    (pp. 119-156)

    Canada received comparatively smaller numbers of Central American immigrants than Mexico and the United States did, in large part because of its more distant geographic location. Salvadorans were the largest group to migrate to Canada and came to represent almost totally the Central American refugee crisis, and most had spent some time in other countries before state policies forced them to migrate further north. Canada officially granted asylum to a larger percentage of those who crossed its borders than its continental neighbors did. Even after 1986, when domestic concerns forced the Canadian federal government to restrict the number of entrants...

  10. CONCLUSION: Shared Responsibility? Legacies of the Central American Refugee Crisis
    (pp. 157-168)

    One of the legacies of the refugee crisis in Central America was greater cooperation in immigration matters among Mexico, the United States, and Canada, as well as other countries in the region. Beginning with the 1989 CIREFCA conference in Guatemala City, migration experts from Central and North America met several times over the next decade to discuss issues of mutual concern, including the root causes of migration, the trafficking of immigrants, the protection of human rights, and the accommodation and repatriation of refugees. Since 1996, representatives from eleven countries (Belize, Canada, Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Mexico, Nicaragua, Panama,...

  11. NOTES
    (pp. 169-234)
    (pp. 235-254)
  13. INDEX
    (pp. 255-274)