Migration Narratives in Northern Central America

Migration Narratives in Northern Central America

How Competing Stories Shape Policy and Public Opinion in Guatemala, Honduras, and El Salvador


A set of interconnected, yet often contradictory, narratives helps explain how migration trends in northern Central America are evolving, and why policymakers in the region and the United States are struggling to keep up with shifting migration dynamics.

Government narratives primarily seek to deter migration, yet these narratives are often misaligned with migrants’ reasons for leaving. At the same time, narratives in many local communities portray emigration as an economic lifeline, rite of passage, and source of pride.

A new report, Migration Narratives in Northern Central America: How Competing Stories Shape Policy and Public Opinion in Guatemala, Honduras, and El Salvador, examines narratives in northern Central America from 2018 to 2022, as well as U.S. and Mexican narratives focused on the region.

The report presents the findings of research conducted by the Migration Policy Institute, RAND Corporation, Metropolitan Group, and National Immigration Forum, comparing migration narratives within El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras—as well as a selection of migration narratives from Mexico and the United States that relate to Central America—over the 2018–22 period. The study explores how these narratives about emigration, transit migration, return, and other issues intersect, and how they influence policy debates and decisions.

Most studies of public opinion and narratives around migration focus mainly on perceptions in migrant-receiving communities. Much less work has been done in regions experiencing long-standing patterns of outmigration to understand how narratives about migration in all its forms fit together and reinforce (or compete) with one another. 

“As movements within and across northern Central America become both more complex and more contested, it is important to track how stories along the entire migration continuum intersect, contradict or compound each other, and how they influence both policy decisions and how policies are received by the communities they affect,” the researchers write.

For an earlier report by the research partners examining how immigration narratives take hold and spread, read: How We Talk About Migration: The Link Between Migration Narratives, Policy, and Power.

Metropolitan Group tiene una compañía hermana con sede en la Ciudad de México. Impacto Social Metropolitan Group