The Migrant Peacebuilding Project seeks to provide sustainable opportunities for Guatemalan nationals who have been deported from the United States. Our mission is to implement an employment placement program and host educational seminars in order to connect deported migrants with private sector employers and foster a greater understanding of the unique challenges facing deported migrants. Through this action we hope to promote peace by reducing unemployment and confronting the systemic problems of stigmatization, isolation and criminalization that disproportionately affect migrant communities.
Why is it important?
Grappling with poverty and violence, Guatemala has experienced an exodus of over 1.3 million migrants, who have traveled to the United States in pursuit of the perceived benefits of “the American Dream.” With a GDP per capita of $7,500 (2014), a GINI index of 54.3 (2015), and more than 54% (2011) of the population living under the poverty line, Guatemala relies extensively on remittances, which constitute 9.8% (2011) of the GDP, making it the 4th largest recipient in Latin America.
In 2012, the Guatemalan Ministry of Foreign Affairs estimated that 500,000 undocumented Guatemalans were living in the United States. The majority of these migrants are young, unskilled, and hopeful, yet helpless. Of these migrants, 77.3% are in between the ages of 20 and 44; barely 50% have some elementary school education, and only 7% have completed high school. Huge numbers face deportation from the United States. In 2014, 48,000 the U.S. deported 48,000 migrants to Guatemala. In the first four months of 2015, 17,611 Guatemalans were deported. These numbers are expected to keep rising steadily.
Few sources of support await migrants returning to Guatemala. Government assistance is negligible. As the Guatemalan newspaper, El Periódico, reported, “the DMG [General Agency for Migrants] didn’t do anything but take down their names…they would get off the plane and try to go somewhere. Sometimes, if they are lucky, their families come to get them. These deported migrants give all they have in order to get a ride; couple dollars and even watches or sun glasses.”
The problems facing returning migrants are not just limited to lacking support structures. They also face crippling social stigmas associated with deportation. Many migrants find it difficult to reintegrate into Guatemalan society after having assimilated into the culture of the United States, where, for example, tattoos are common, but are associated with gang membership in Guatemala. Migrants may face discrimination in job application processes when employers discover that they have been deported after conducting the standard police background checks. Furthermore, when migrants are deported from the United States, they lose any means of proving past employment experience and skills. Consequentially, many of those lucky enough to find work are underemployed, trapped in positions that don’t reflect their capabilities and qualifications.