Cover: Migration Narratives in Northern Central America

Migration Narratives in Northern Central America

How Competing Stories Shape Policy and Public Opinion in Guatemala, Honduras, and El Salvador

Published in: Migration Policy Institute (June 2023)

Posted on Aug 25, 2023

by Ariel G. Ruiz Soto, Natalia Banulescu-Bogdan, Aaron Clark-Ginsberg, Alejandra Lopez, Alejandro Vélez Salas

The stories told within a society about migration and migrants paint a rich picture of how its members view the opportunities and challenges associated with the movement of people, and through what lenses. These migration narratives both inform policymaking and shape the public’s reaction to government policy, affecting the policies’ chances of achieving their goals. While El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras are primarily known for emigration to the United States and Mexico, these northern Central American countries have seen notable changes in migration trends in recent years. The number of migrants from South America and the Caribbean who transit through these countries on their way north has increased, as has the number of Central Americans returning to their countries of origin. This report presents the findings of research conducted by the Migration Policy Institute, RAND Corporation, Metropolitan Group, and National Immigration Forum, comparing migration narratives within El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras—as well as a selection of migration narratives from Mexico and the United States that relate to Central America—over the 2018–22 period. The study explores how these narratives about emigration, transit migration, return, and other issues intersect, how they contradict or compound each other, and how they influence critical policy debates and decisions in the region.

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This report is part of the RAND external publication series. Many RAND studies are published in peer-reviewed scholarly journals, as chapters in commercial books, or as documents published by other organizations.

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