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Migration from the Northern Triangle Countries: a Tripartite Analysis of Trauma

Cristina Calderon


As transnational criminal organizations have increasingly gained footholds in the chronically unstable Guatemala, El Salvador and Honduras, these Northern Triangle countries have come to form a corridor of violent and illicit activity. These conditions have cultivated a culture of violence, corruption, and impunity, all of which leave Central Americans defenseless against inescapable human rights violations. This paper first examines these home country conditions to evince the psychosocial traumas sustained by Central Americans. The transit experience is then examined to establish the act of migration as a period during which forced migrants are subjected to experiences no less traumatic than those from which they have fled. This paper then discusses post-transit experiences of integration, race, and illegality and their role in the adverse health outcomes experienced by forced migrants. In acknowledging the entire migration experience as trauma-ridden, this paper demonstrates long term migrant health as inextricably tied to the quality of mental health services they are provided in receiving countries such as the United States. This paper argues that the current state of mental health services provided to forced migrants are largely inadequate given the traumas they sustain throughout the transit experience and proposes psychological first aid as an effective means by which receiving countries can respond to this unprecedented influx of forced migrants.

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