The tensions generated by the movement of people across borders in the 21st century have exposed deep fractures in existing political and economic systems. The conditions of poverty, exclusion and violence that push people to move in search of safety and the opportunity to live and work with dignity, along with the widespread backlash against their arrival, make it clear that existing frameworks have failed to effectively address the causes and effects of migration in a context of globalization.
The work of grassroots organizations has been recognized as filling a gap where governments and international institutions are unwilling or unable to respond, and as a practice of resistance against unjust and insufficient laws and regimes that can contribute to changing them. The question that drives this research is whether and how these practices are shaping and transforming communities, and how they offer an alternative politics of migration that may translate into broader political change, both nationally and regionally, through their local work as well as through the transnational coalitions they build and envision.
This multi-sited transnational ethnographic research focuses on organizations and activists across the Central America-Mexico-US migration corridor that go beyond urgent responses in the name of hospitality. Instead, they offer a set of principles, structures and relationships to address broader questions of equality and justice that also implicate local communities.
The three sites that I have chosen — the network of migrant shelters in Mexico and Central America, the sanctuary coalitions in the U.S., and the organizations of returnees/deportees in Mexico — represent different processes of migration across the region. Examined together, they exemplify a vision of migration as a continuum that needs to be addressed across borders and throughout the various processes of mobility, including their root causes and their effects on migrants and local communities from the moment of departure, through transit, arrival, settlement and return.