Migration and Deportation among Guatemalans in the U.S. and Guatemala (Spring 2020)


Historically, migration has had an important cyclical component, with migrants leaving and returning home many times in response to family needs in their communities of origin as well as opportunities at their new destination. In today’s world, the circular nature of migration is often forced as governments are deporting millions of migrants every year. From the Turkish government’s proposal to deport millions of displaced Syrians, to the Trump administration’s ongoing efforts to deport tens of thousands of Central Americans from the U.S., it is increasingly important to understand the implications of deportation for the migrants themselves, the communities from which they are taken and the communities to which they are forcibly returned.

The U.S. deports three to five planes full of Guatemalans four days a week, yet there are virtually no systematic studies of the reintegration of recent deportees. Many Guatemalan deportees face particularly stark reintegration challenges because they grew up in the U.S. By providing insight into the social experience of deportation on both sides of the U.S. border, this project aims to provide timely input into crucial political, policy and humanitarian issues.

Project Description

This project team will examine the Guatemalan deportation crisis from multiple dimensions – both from the perspective of recent deportees in Guatemala City and from the perspective of North Carolina’s Guatemalan (and larger Latin American immigrant) community currently experiencing day-to-day life in a climate of mass deportation.

Team members will conduct primary research on how the historically unprecedented deportation of Guatemalan immigrants in the U.S. impacts recent deportees arriving in Guatemala and the communities to which they are returning. In parallel, the team will also conduct primary research on the experience of mass deportations within affected Central American immigrant communities in North Carolina. These two components will be united in an effort to understand the transnational nature and household impacts (both health and economic) of social distress associated with deportation.

Mateo Villamizar Chaparro will serve as the team’s project manager.

Guatemala Component

The Guatemala portion of the project will be organized out of RTI’s office in Guatemala City. RTI and Te Conecta will participate in coordination of the Guatemala portion by facilitating introductions for follow-up interviews with deportees, coordinating with the data collection team and providing an orientation regarding the U.S. and Guatemalan government agencies involved with the deportee population. Building on ongoing surveys and experimental research on job training and reintegration among deportees in Guatemala City, the team will conduct follow-up interviews among deportees in order to understand the challenges this population faces as they are forcibly returned to Guatemala City.

North Carolina Component

The North Carolina portion of the project will be organized out of Duke. In order to better understand how this surge in deportations is impacting Central American immigrant households in North Carolina, team members working on this component will partner with Church World Service (CWS) to survey Guatemalan immigrant households. Team members will build on initial qualitative interviews to design an original survey instrument, interview several hundred households and analyze the data to understand how the ongoing wave of deportations are impacting Guatemalan immigrants’ health and economic wellbeing.

Anticipated Outputs

Primary quantitative data and qualitative data; policy report; two publications; proposals for further research funding


Spring 2020 – Summer 2020

  • Spring 2020: Weekly independent study meetings; monthly group meetings; Guatemala and N.C. research; selected students travel to Guatemala during Spring Break
  • Summer 2020 (optional): Additional fieldwork if necessary

Team Outputs to Date

Team website

This Team in the News

Exploring the Human Impacts of Deportation in Guatemala

COVID-19 Aid to Help Guatemalan Deportees

North and Central America.

Team Leaders

  • Erica Field, Arts & Sciences-Economics
  • Pamela Lattimore, RTI International
  • Jay Pearson, Sanford School of Public Policy
  • Erik Wibbels, Arts & Sciences-Political Science

/graduate Team Members

  • Leah Baldasare, Masters of Public Policy
  • Imali Bandara, Masters of Public Policy
  • Hector Luna Iniguez, Masters of Public Policy
  • Michelle Pieters, Global Health - MS
  • Maria Ramirez, Masters of Public Policy, International Dev Policy
  • Hannah Silver, Masters of Public Policy
  • Mateo Villamizar Chaparro, Political Science-PHD
  • Pamela Zabala, Sociology-PHD

/undergraduate Team Members

  • Hannah Branch, Int Comparative Studies (AB)
  • Robert Carlson, Political Science (AB), Economics (BS2)
  • Qasim Hameed, Economics (BS)
  • Catherine Howard
  • Caroline Hughes, Int Comparative Studies (AB)
  • Tiarra Hughes, Int Comparative Studies (AB)
  • Mitra Kiciman, Computer Science (BS)
  • Lindsay Maggioncalda, Computer Science (BS), Cultural Anthropology (AB2)
  • Sofia Molina, Political Science (AB)
  • Arya Patel, Public Policy Studies (AB)
  • Ana Trejo
  • Mabelle Zhang, Public Policy Studies (AB)

/yfaculty/staff Team Members

  • Katie Andrzejewski, DevLab@Duke
  • David Dow, Political Science

/zcommunity Team Members

  • Katherine Cogswell, Church World Services, Durham
  • Christopher Inkpen, RTI International
  • Jose Ordonez, Te Conecta
  • Wayne Pitts, RTI International