Northern Triangle Migrant Flow Study

Principal Researcher: Bryan Roberts

Other Researchers: Sarah Burns, Amelia DiAngelo, Jonathan Eyer, Ann Song Lee, Maggie Li, Brian Rieksts, Detlof von Winterfeldt, John E. Whitley


Asylum seekers from the Northern Triangle countries of El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras represent a significant part of migrants entering the United States. This report assesses whether these migrants would stay in Mexico as a final destination or return home, if seeking asylum in the United States is not an option. The report reviews empirical data and carries out a broad range of statistical analysis to evaluate the motivations of these migrants and the nature of their migratory trip. The core finding that emerges is that any appreciable diversion of these migrants to Mexico is unlikely. Adult asylum seekers have primarily been driven by economic motivations, and juvenile migrants by economic opportunities and reunification with family, and evidence on the impact of crime and violence on juvenile and adult flows is mixed. Mexico does not offer enough gain in economic opportunities and reduction in exposure to crime and violence to justify the costs of migration, and juvenile migrants require family members and networks already present in the destination country that do not exist in Mexico.