Methods: Using Systems Dynamics Modeling, a Stella model synthesizes the movement of people from Central America, through Mexico, to the United States and back. The model is calibrated using data reported from migration policy and research authorities, including the Washington Office of Latin America, Migration Policy Institute, the Department of Homeland Security and Mexican federal government. The model is used to illuminate hypothetical shifts in migration given certain policy or variable changes in the dynamic system.
Results: The model shows the salience of violence, economic conditions and border security measures in the overall migration system. If violence and economic conditions both worsen, the influx of migrants to the United States is not deterred by the increased securitization of the U.S-Mexico border, nor the Mexico-Guatemala border. Further, when internal conditions in Central American countries are addressed the migration flow is drastically deterred.
Conclusions and Implications: The Stella model condenses the complex system of international migration to highlight potential intervention points to increase the safety of the migrants involved given the contentiousness of the issue. The model demonstrates the importance of preventative migration policy and emphasizes the ineffectiveness of the reactive tendencies of the current system. Decreasing violence in Central America, not border security, is the most effective measure to intervene in mass migration inflows. This is relevant to social work because it provides policy advocates and scholars alike with guidance, evidence and suggestions for points of focal intervention. Additionally, the model suggests need for culturally tailored, effective violence reduction techniques for international social work practitioners. These findings bolster conversation on the importance of considering multilateral interventions for transnational realities and work to challenge misunderstandings of migration on a systems level.