Going Beyond the Root Causes of Migration to Resolve the Border Crisis

Author: Kara Kelly

At the Pulte Institute, we’re focused on identifying and resolving the systemic causes of the border crisis — versus just dealing with its effects. We believe our comprehensive approach, to provide information through rigorous research that is accessible and usable, will help policymakers implement significant and sustainable change to improve outcomes along the U.S.-Mexico border.

Decision-makers need the best available information relevant to the problem they’re trying to solve. The Pulte Institute has a long record of bringing together cross-sector academics and researchers from Central America to uncover why migration occurs in the first place. And working with our partners, we’re learning more about the issue and gaining a better understanding of what works and doesn’t to deter migration.

Migration, of course, is not a new phenomenon, but it’s increasing worldwide. People are moving in larger numbers faster and further than at any other time in history, and this is having, and will continue to have, serious ramifications.

A nationally representative survey by the Pulte Institute found that a majority of Hondurans (55 percent) want to migrate within the next three years. Hondurans seek to migrate because of high levels of gang and domestic violence, lack of quality jobs, political instability, and mistrust of public officials. But there are other reasons that we’ve uncovered by documenting the impact of corruption and autocracy in previously democratic institutions.

Coupled with factors for individual resilience in the face of violence and systematic inequality, we’re actively harnessing data and identifying trends and patterns to develop new policies so Central Americans do not have to make the heart-wrenching choice between risks at home and risks on the journey north. Through our work, we are identifying scalable solutions to empower people to stay in their home countries.

Here are three solutions we are focused on:

  • We have developed a network of researchers and public policy advocates in Central America. Our Central America Research Alliance (CARA) is made up of Central American university partners, think tanks, and NGOs across the region. Our collective work is grounded in the lived experiences of Central Americans. At Pulte, we’re organizing these partners and working to change the systems perpetuating injustice.
  • The Pulte Institute received a $2 million U.S. State Department grant to evaluate the efficacy of the Gang Resistance Education and Training (G.R.E.A.T.) program in El Salvador, Honduras, Costa Rica, and Panama. We are actively working with Central American partners to determine if the limited gang prevention resources in the U.S. are being used in the right way.  
  • In early May, Pulte will spearhead a meeting at Guatemala’s Rafael Landivar University, gathering 30 of our Central American scholar and practitioner partners to address advocacy in human rights and migration. We will validate the results of a recent study on how democratic backsliding in Central America has impacted human mobility. Our goal is to ensure this evidence is communicated most efficiently and effectively throughout Central America and beyond so that our findings are used to implement lasting change. (Undergraduates, part of Notre Dame’s Student Policy Network, will join us in Guatemala to continue their work on strategies to protect human rights.)

At Pulte, we keep researching why Central Americans migrate. We continue to work to identify common denominators of the problems individuals and communities face while recognizing context and diversity. A pitfall is to oversimplify. In reality, there aren’t simple solutions. But researching and analyzing all sides, angles, and implications does contribute to better decisions and policies. Only with relevant, rigorous research — that’s continuously refreshed with new data and shared around the world — can we manage the situation on America’s southern border.