23 February 2018

Recently, students in the Policy Research Project class “Beyond the Border: Policy Responses for Central American Migration,” led by MSI Director Stephanie Leutert, traveled to Guadalajara and Ciudad Juárez, Mexico to further their understanding of the issues surrounding Central American migration through Mexico.

Six LBJ School students: Josh Meuth Alldredge, Lissette Almanza, Esther Cisneros, Michelle Rueda, Jessi Stafford, and Eduardo Velazquez, visited the FM4 migrant shelter in Guadalajara with Director Leutert. While there, the students met with migrants and assisted shelter staff in various logistical duties such as cooking meals and providing clothing to migrants.

Josh Meuth Alldredge shares his experience:

"I was impressed with the REDODEM network that the shelters have built to document migration patterns, the violence and threats migrants experience, and the impacts of migration policies on the women, men, and children who make the dangerous journey from Central America to the United States. In terms of improvements that the shelters could make, I would suggest they take bolder political action to influence public policy and Mexican public perceptions of migrant issues.

At the same time, I recognize the shelters are constrained by their resources and the limited political support of their activities (which could completely disappear if they were to take more contentious public stances on migrant protection).

I was surprised to see the diversity of situations at the shelter. Some of the men were fleeing gang violence in Central America, many were escaping brutal poverty, some were just looking to join their families in the US. Yet at the shelter, they all joked around and shared meals together. And often, after a few days, they left with their new friends to get back on the train and head north together.

Being at the shelter helped me frame the urgency and humanity of the migration issues we are studying. I could see the direct impacts of the policies we are reviewing in class on the experiences that the migrants shared. That connection made the work we're doing all the more important, and led me to feel even more personally invested in improving migration policy in Mexico and the US."

In Ciudad Juárez, Aleksej Demjanski, Catherine Ezzell, Jacob Hofstetter, Paul Kuhne, Carolina Miranda Icazbalceta, Sofia Morales, Garrett Shuffield, and Takasha Smith of the LBJ School toured the U.S./Mexico border with U.S. Customs and Border Protection officials and interviewed an array of border security, diplomacy, and immigration experts, including representatives from the U.S. Consulate, Mexico’s National Immigration Institute, and the Policía Federal.

Jacob Hofstetter on the Ciudad Juárez trip:

"The trip challenged my perspective of how border and immigration policy play out on the ground. Through our interviews with the Border Patrol, Mexican immigration officials, and Mexican police officers I realized the extent to which policies are effectively and humanely implemented on the ground relies heavily on the discretion of officials working on the issue. Previously. I had often thought of these policies as orders that move down a chain without any friction.

After hearing stories of CBP officers turning away asylum seekers or Mexican police extorting migrants, I came to appreciate even more how the behavior of government officials on the ground relies on individual officers' judgement and the culture of the organizations they work. These concerns now seem as, if not more, important than the policies made at top levels in D.C. and Mexico City.

Our meeting with the Border Patrol and tour of the border near El Paso was one of the most valuable experiences for me. We got a chance to interact with federal officials working on immigration and hear their perspectives on irregular migration, smuggling, and the border.

The trip allowed us to get a more direct view of how immigration policies play out along the U.S.-Mexico border. In addition, meeting with American and Mexican officials gave us a chance to put human faces and perspectives on the issues we had studied all semester at the LBJ School."

Please visit the main Mexico Security Initiative page here for more on the program's past activities and future objectives.

 

MSI 6

After meeting the representatives from the U.S. Consulate in Ciudad Jaurez

MSI 6

 After meeting Chief Victor Manjarrez at the University of Texas El Paso

MSI 6

Outside the National Migration Institute's offices in Ciudad Juárez

MSI 6

The Guadalajara Group

 

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