Understanding and Withstanding: Comparing Colombian and Mexican Responses to Migration Crises
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In the late 2010s, deepening crises in Venezuela, El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras have led to the migration of millions from their homes in pursuit of refuge and asylum. Received primarily by Colombia and Mexico, these migrants and asylum seekers have encountered vastly different responses from the country in which they end up. Why have Colombia and Mexico, as countries with many similarities, approached the influx of migrants and asylum seekers in significantly different ways? Drawing on Jacobsen’s (1996) framework on state responses to migration, I analyzed Mexican and Colombian newspapers and supplemented initial findings with government documents, nongovernmental reports, and foreign news sources to find that the public discourse of each country shows that they differ in two key ways: Colombia’s identity includes a deeper sense of obligation to newcomers than Mexico’s, and Colombia’s regional policy is more autonomous than Mexico’s. These differences shape Colombia’s largely positive, humanitarian welcome of Venezuelans and Mexico’s more negative, militaristic response to Central Americans. This research may be used to help countries understand which aspects of their identity and foreign policy improve or worsen the experiences of vulnerable migrants and asylum seekers, thereby enabling states to construct positive and internationally-sanctioned responses to migration crises.