In the Eye of the Hurricane: Migration in, from, and towards Central America

En el ojo del huracán: las migraciones en, desde y hacia Centroamérica

Migration Conference at the Central American University (UCA) in San Salvador, El Salvador

My name is Clara Marina von Loebenstein and I am an MA candidate at the Julien Studley Graduate Program in International Affairs (GPIA).  My concentration is in Conflict and Security and I am graduating this May 2019. I am currently the Program Associate at the New School’s Observatory on Latin America (OLA) and also a Student Fellow at the Zolberg Institute for Migration and Mobility. My interest in the migration field comes from a combination of my personal story as an immigrant, but also from my work in the immigration law field prior to starting the MA program. Having assisted women and children with various aspects of the asylum process inside the South Texas Detention Center in Dilley inspired me to continue learning about the field that is intimately tied to securitization policies, especially in Central and Latin America. My current GPIA portfolio has a two-part focus. The first part looks at Mara Salvatrucha (MS-13) in the framework of a third-generation gang (3-GEN) in order to explore how the group engages in fourth-generation (4-GEN) warfare that induces mass insecurity, violence, and international migration. The paper also investigates the ways in which the group’s transnationality affects its evolution, tactics, strategy, asymmetry, relations with adversaries and law enforcement. The second paper researches responses to MS-13 by comparing the responses from the U.S. to Guatemala, Honduras, and El Salvador in order to draw out patters, lessons, and formulate a deeper transnational conflict analysis of MS-13 violence.

On March 29, 2019, both GPIA and the OLA provided me with the unique opportunity to attend a CLACSO organized conference titled “In the Eye of the Hurricane: Migration in, from, and towards Central America” at the Central American University (UCA) in San Salvador, El Salvador.

The conference’s objectives were to discuss current trends, impacts, and implications from different perspectives in order to place migrants at the center of the discussion and to reflect contradictions in the local-global institutional frameworks. The organizers invited academics, civil society, representatives for migrants, and governmental institutions. This group facilitated diverse perspectives and discussions.

The conference was broken up into various colloquiums. The first focused on academia’s role in generation information and knowledge about migration through a critical reflection about regional, hemispheric, and global implications. The second colloquium focused on the dynamics of regional migration through the analysis of patterns and behaviors and their impact on social, political, economic, and cultural dynamics. The third colloquium focused on future regional dynamics that promote a link between academics and society.

Given that the U.S. has given this topic a highly politicized and racialized lens, the conference allowed for refreshing insight from academics, practitioners, and community leaders in the global south. This is important to highlight as the voices of migrants and of the communities most affected by violence are often sidestepped by prominent North American or European scholars that study them. Overall, the conference provided a much-needed voice for critical and diverse regional perspectives. The suggestions on how to improve discourses, practices, and policies around migration and security in Central America, given in the third colloquium, enriched not only the academics in the room but also the practitioners present.