Migration and borders: The "Casas del Migrante" and the flow of unauthorized migrants

Rene Manenti, Fordham University


This study investigates the migrant shelters belonging to the network Red Casas del Migrante which provide temporary lodging and humanitarian assistance to unlawful migrants and deportees in Mexico and Guatemala. Because of the request by the Casas to look into the feasibility of digitizing their archival collections in order to make the data available for scholarly research, my research came to life. The work stemmed from the germinal idea of the importance of situating the databases in the broader context of what the migrant shelters are and do in order to better understand, and eventually analyze in further detail, the data themselves. What the safe houses are and do ultimately depends and derives from their specific place/role within the phenomenon of illegal migration. Hence, the study explores the relation between these two "entities" using a combination of different methods, namely, participative observation, semi-structured interviews, and quantitative analysis. The investigation extensively relies on the most prominent migration theories. Some of these paradigms are instrumental in delineating the backdrop against which the Casas came to be and operate. Conversely, other models are directly applied to the reality of the safe houses in order to investigate their connection with illegal migration. Jacqueline Hagan's seminal book Migration Miracle provides a springboard and a compass for my research. Three interrelated questions spurred my analysis: What are the Casas del Migrante? What place/role do they occupy/play vis-à-vis illegal migration? What kind of insights would the investigation of these institutions provide for migration studies? The first and second questions are at the heart of what the migrant shelters are and what they do, in other words, their raison d'être. The third question considers the investigation of the migrant shelters within the larger context of migration research to show how such an analysis provides additional insights about the movement of people across borders. By putting the migrant shelters under the microscope as a case study, I aim to achieve the following results. First, I intend to bring attention to an element pertaining to the phenomenon of illegal migration which has been often neglected, namely, the safe houses themselves, and to show the importance of considering these institutions within migration studies. Second, I expect to expand our knowledge on the unlawful movement of people across borders, thus contributing to the field of migration studies.

Subject Area

Social research|Geography

Recommended Citation

Manenti, Rene, "Migration and borders: The "Casas del Migrante" and the flow of unauthorized migrants" (2013). ETD Collection for Fordham University. AAI3563429.