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Seeking Safety, Deciding on Asylum: State Actors and Migrant Decision-Making


In recent years, more asylum seekers from Honduras, Mexico, El Salvador, and Guatemala have presented themselves at the border. While literature exists on refugee and economic migrations, few scholars have explored the decision-making process of asylum seekers from this region. This thesis explores, particularly, their decision to leave, their transit experiences, and ultimately, their decision at the border. In interviews with female asylum seekers at migrant shelters in Tijuana in 2019, they explained their reasons for migrating, their experiences traveling through Mexico, and how state actors played a pivotal role in their decision-making at the border. This data shows how sociological theories of refugee migration and economic migration can also be utilized to understand the experiences of asylum seekers from this region. In addition, this thesis finds that state actors are pivotal in influencing the decision-making of asylum seekers, encouraging, and discouraging people from seeking asylum. Overall, these explanations yield insight into the interactivity of state border policies —primarily how U.S-Mexico relations on migration directly impact the day-to-day journey of asylum seekers traveling through Mexico to reach the United States.

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