A new report released Tuesday about Central American migrants who unsuccessfully gained asylum or other protection in the United States or Mexico presented a rare look into life after these migrants returned to their home countries. Published by the Center for Migration Studies and Cristosal, the report was the result of interviews conducted with “individuals who fled from El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras under threats of violence and persecution and had been deported back to their country of origin to determine why they fled their homelands, why they could not secure asylum, and on their situations post-return.”

The report shared several findings, including the following:

  • Specific acts of violence, rather than the generalized violence endemic in the Northern Triangle states, precipitated flight in search of protection. Most participants expressed feelings of fleeing as a “last resort,” as they left behind jobs, family, friends, homes, and culture in order to seek protection.
  • The majority of interviewees had themselves been victims of violence or had family members who had been victims. Some had a family member who had been killed by gangs in their stead or “in place” of them.
  • Half of the interviewees had been displaced internally before deciding to leave the country. Upon their return to the circumstances they fled, they relied on their families for shelter, support, and a modicum of protection, not the government.
  • No one interviewed indicated that they expected protection from the US government, although all needed it. Their lack of understanding of the law and the inability of their families to protect them in transit and upon arrival in the United States prompted some to make decisions to “voluntarily” return, without full knowledge of their rights.

In addition, the report highlighted policy recommendations, including these:

  • Central Americans who arrive at the US border should be provided with a know-your-rights briefing by nonprofit legal experts and access to legal representation prior to their credible fear interview.
  • Alternatives to detention should be offered to persons found to have a credible fear of return.
  • Deterrence policies should be replaced with protection programs in countries of origin, transit and asylum.
  • A comprehensive return program should be created which helps deportees and other returnees find employment and receive protection.
  • The United States and other nations should assist nations of the Northern Triangle to address the root causes of flight.

This is the full report:


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