August 23, 2019

How 1970s neoliberalism factors into today's mass migration from Central America

A discussion with UA cultural anthropologist Megan Carney.

Since the fiscal year began for Customs and Border Protection in October, the agency has apprehended more than 400,000 family units from Central America and Mexico. In our continuing coverage of the surge, we heard from Megan Carney, a cultural anthropologist at the University of Arizona School of Anthropology, about how the advent of neoliberalism in Central America 40 years ago led to the conditions that many people are fleeing today.

“There’s been a slow building up of migration since around that time. These are policies that actually trace to neoliberal ideas of trade liberalization, privatization of basic services, deregulation of markets that have increasingly displaced people from rural livelihoods in Central America and rural Mexico. At the same time these policies have created a demand for a source of cheap, surplus labor,” Carney said. “I think it’s really important that when we talk about transnational migration that we’re not thinking of it as necessarily an individual’s decision to search for a better life which is how it’s often framed. But instead thinking of it as a necessary strategy for survival required by our global economy.”

Arizona 360
Arizona 360 airs Fridays at 8:30 p.m. on PBS 6 and Saturdays at 8 p.m. on PBS 6 PLUS. See more from Arizona 360.
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