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CLALS | Central American Migration Research Initiative

Central American Migration Research Initiative

While overall apprehensions at the U.S.-Mexico border remain at historic lows, the flow of unauthorized Central American migrants—many of them unaccompanied minors and families—continues at record levels. This demographic shift comes amidst congressional paralysis on comprehensive immigration reform, divergent state and local community responses to migrant resettlement, and contentious debate in Washington over the use of executive action to overhaul the nation’s broken immigration system. Together with community and university partners, CLALS is undertaking a set of projects to better understand the factors driving migration from Central America, the well-being of migrants, and the impact of increased migration on communities across the U.S. Understanding the magnitude and unique nature of migrant flows from Central America is thus essential to addressing the policy challenges associated with shifting trends in immigration to the U.S. 

Center projects continue to explore the conditions motivating the migration of Central American minors and their families, their safety and welfare during the migration journey, and their experiences upon arriving in the U.S. Research on the circumstances driving migration is contributing to the Center’s efforts to inform legal decision-making on the tens of thousands of cases that have overwhelmed the U.S. immigration system. Projects under the umbrella of this initiative are also analyzing the educational, legal, and social services needed to address the increase in arrivals in receiving communities across the country.

Current Projects

Household Contexts and School Integration of Resettled Youth

A child's hand fits the last piece into the puzzle





With the resettlement of over 11,000 Central American youth throughout the Washington, DC metropolitan area since October 2013, CLALS is undertaking a pilot study of local schools' responses to the needs of this growing at-risk newcomer population and of how varying household arrangements are impacting educational opportunities for these youth. 

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Country Conditions in Central America and Asylum Decision-    Making

A set of scales leans heavily to the right.





Building on CLALS research on factors driving Central American migration, a National Science Foundation-funded workshop in January 2017 convened experts to share insights across disciplinary perspectives in order to enhance scholarship and better inform lawyers and other practitioners working with Central American migrants.

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Unaccompanied Children from Central America: Context, Causes, and Responses

A cutout map of Central America reveals a child facing away from the camera.





In the months following the 2014 surge in youth and family border crossings, CLALS undertook an initial phase of fieldwork to analyze the primary factors driving the increased flows. With support from the Ford Foundation, CLALS produced a working paper based on project findings, which continues to serve as a leading resource for scholars and practitioners.

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