Migration through the Americas is far more complex than the linear, all-northward movement portrayed in the media. While some movement is northbound from Central and South America toward the United States and Canada, there is also widespread return migration, circular movements along various stages of the route, and migrations within countries and within cities. Many migrants move in stages, temporarily settling in Central American cities to earn some money before continuing along the route.
Some of these end up staying in “transit” cities permanently. The route also changes over time as national policies and border enforcement practices shift, with transit cities like Monterrey, Mexico, or San Jose, Costa Rica transforming into hosts of migrants who access their relatively welcoming national governments and local job opportunities.Within the US, migrants continue to move from town to town, navigating in stages to areas with better housing costs, job opportunities, or communities of welcome or co-nationals. In these American cities, Latin American migrants mix with refugees from Central Asia, the Middle East, and sub-Saharan Africa, who arrive by plane through resettlement programs, or through visa-free travel to certain Central and South American countries before traveling by land north.
Our RIT cases provide a local, neighborhood-level view of this transnational route from the viewpoints of migrants and hosts in a range of cities. These cases also illustrate how the businesses, churches, public parks, schools, governments, libraries, and other features of cities have been transformed by demographic change over generations.