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Latin American Program in the News: Migrant Return Policy

Eric L. Olson

Latin American Program Associate Director Eric L. Olson is quoted on the recent wave of Central American migrants.


Vice President Joe Biden, who will be in Guatemala on Friday to meet with President Otto Perez Molina and other leaders from the region, is likely to raise the issue of repatriation numbers. He's expected to hear something very different in return.

"He's going to be told, 'you need to reform your immigration system,'" said Eric Olson, associate director of the Latin American Program at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars.

Reached in El Salvador Thursday, Olson said, "They are going to say, our kids should be able to be reunified with their families in the United States without having to make this dangerous journey."


The Wilson Center's Olson said that even though the United States has a strong protocol in place for the repatriation of Mexican nationals, it is not a plan to be emulated.

"It's not a very well-thought-out process," he said. "We repatriate Mexicans who crossed in California and Arizona in nighttime deportations from South Texas to Reynosa, where they know nobody. They're dumped off in the middle of the night at a time when they're vulnerable ... they have no place to go and they're sitting ducks for organized crime."

He said the Central American countries of origin, similarly, are worried that if the minors are returned with no point of contact, "They'll be turned loose to the gangs."


Eric L. Olson, Associate Director of the Latin American Program, is quoted in this article by Viva Colorado about Central American migration, the United States' "migrant return policy," and how Central American countries are wary of accepting large groups of returned immigrants.

To read the full article, click here.

About the Author

Eric L. Olson

Eric L. Olson

Global Fellow,
Director of the Central America-D.C. Platform, Seattle International Foundation
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Latin American Program

The Wilson Center’s prestigious Latin American Program provides non-partisan expertise to a broad community of decision makers in the United States and Latin America on critical policy issues facing the Hemisphere. The Program provides insightful and actionable research for policymakers, private sector leaders, journalists, and public intellectuals in the United States and Latin America. To bridge the gap between scholarship and policy action, it fosters new inquiry, sponsors high-level public and private meetings among multiple stakeholders, and explores policy options to improve outcomes for citizens throughout the Americas. Drawing on the Wilson Center’s strength as the nation’s key non-partisan forum, the Program serves as a trusted source of analysis and a vital point of contact between the worlds of scholarship and action.  Read more