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ThinkND kicks off first part of ‘Beyond the Border’ series

| Thursday, September 30, 2021

ThinkND kicked off part one of their three-part “Beyond the Border” series via Zoom on Wednesday.

Hosted by Tom Hare, a senior technical associate at the Pulte Institute for Global Development, the program featured guests Marin Estela Rivero Fuentes from the Pulte Institute and associate professor Abby Cordova from the Keough School of Global Affairs.

Though immigration can be a heated topic in modern politics, Hare affirmed at the beginning of the event that the series would be strictly informative.

“Our purpose over the next few weeks is not to convince you of one viewpoint or another,” he said. “But rather to inform.”

The program dove into the causes and effects of people migrating out of Central America — particularly from Honduras, El Salvador and Guatemala.

There is not one single reason for migration, the Pulte Institute’s most recent research in Honduras shows, but rather multiple contributing factors: Economic reasons lead as a main reason for 93% of migrants, violence is next at 50% and environmental reasons is third at 47%, among others.

“This shows us that we cannot oversimplify to say that migration is just an economic job or violence issue”, Hare said in an introduction video for the event.

Adding to the complexity, Cordova explained, is the fact that people’s reasons for migration change with time.

For example, her team in Honduras interviewed a group of survey participants twice about their reasons for wanting to migrate. The first time, the dominating factor in the group was because they did not have a job. 

“When we reinterviewed them, unemployment was still the main reason for wanting to migrate, but violence and the idea that even when they have a job, they would earn more in the U.S., had become very important as well,” Cordova said.

Women are particularly vulnerable to and motivated to migrate by violence in Central America. In El Salvador, a recent government institution survey shows that over 63% of women living in the country report having experienced sexual violence.

In her research, Cordova has observed areas controlled by gangs show the highest levels of sexual and gender-based violence. In these areas, however, the gangs are not the only group committing these acts of violence.

“What I find with quantitative data is that members of the police and military are perpetrating sexual violence against women in those areas controlled by gangs,” Cordova explained.

With no security for women, many see migration as the only option.

“My research shows that these high levels of impunities precisely motivated women to want to migrate,” she said.

A theme that Fuentes’ team noticed in their research was that people are much less likely to migrate if they envision a good future for themselves in their communities.

“We are trying to unpack what makes people think they have a future in their country,” Fuentes said.

Fuentes added that it is key to have a decent, reliable job in order to have hope for a future.

“It’s not only having a job but having a good quality one that makes people flourish where they live,” she said. 

Another source for hope, Cordova explained, is the people of Central America holding onto their belief in democracy.

“About 90% of citizens from El Salvador demand government transparency,” she mentioned. “This shows citizens are willing to hold their government accountable rather than simply handing it a blank check.”

The next part of the “Beyond the Borders” series, entitled ‘The Realities of Migration from Central America,’ will be held Oct. 6 via Zoom.

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