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Youth and Migration

At Vida Digna, we recognize that migration is more complex than the decisions of individuals. The structural causes that spur migration are intimately linked to exclusion and displacement -- factors which compel people to leave their communities and countries of origin.

The services of Youth and Migration include the following:

Border between Guatemala and Mexico. Photo por Henning Sac.

Mother and son. Photo by Vida Digna.

The young people who participate in Vida Digna's Youth and Migration program have been deported from the U.S. and Mexico. They are between the ages of 14 and 19 and are from the southwestern departments of Guatemala. Increasingly, however, the Collective supports even younger children. Their families are from different Mayan linguistic communities, with Spanish as their second language. "Coyotes," or guides, charge exorbitant fees to bring people from Guatemala to the U.S. border. Upon their return home,  these young people face debts between $8,000 and $11,000 (Q60,000 and Q80,000) plus interest payments as high as 10% monthly. In the local economy, most families earn an average of $250 per month. The demands of paying down migration debt limit young people’s access to education. Before becoming part of the Collective, these young people haven't had the opportunity to complete secondary school.

Research and Advocacy

Informed by research on the systemic causes of migration, Vida Digna defends the rights of indigenous migrants through community-based advocacy.

In response to increasingly restrictive migration policies in the U.S. and Mexico, Vida Digna, along with two researchers from Guatemala and the U.S., have developed a study entitled Transnational Migration and the Deportation of Young Indigenous People from Guatemala. Slated to commence in 2018, this research examines the multifaceted motivations, experiences, and consequences of transnational migration and deportation of indigenous youth.

In addition, Vida  Digna  participates in working groups within civil society in Guatemala, Mexico and the  U.S.  to  advocate  on  issues  of  sexual  and

Research team. Photo by Vida Digna.

gender-based violence in contexts of migration. The Working Group on Gender and Child Migration --- a collaboration with KIND, ECAP and Pop Noj --- seeks to enhance the visibility of women in migratory contexts and the violence they confront. Click to read more about our programs for women.

Direct Services

Family members possess intergenerational knowledge that, when given space and recognition, become opportunities to address the causes and consequences of migration. By identifying the strengths and skills of families, Vida Digna provides personalized support. Direct services include family reunification, educational support, and employment training.


Through the Child Migrant Return & Reintegration Project (CMRRP) --- a bi-national project with Kids in Need of Defense (KIND) --- the Collective has facilitated the reunification of more than 70 young people with their families in the departments of Quiche, Sololá, Totonicapán, and Quetzaltenango. The legal, social, emotional, and cultural impacts of deportation are significant and enduring. Reunification simultaneously brings the sadness of extinguished dreams and the joy of reunion. The Collective provides cultural support services in this critical time of transition.


Educational support. Photo by Vida Digna.

Educational support to returned migrants and their families is essential to breaking the barriers to access of services and rights. Vida Digna establishes alliances with technical training institutes, adult education programs, and cultural centers to provide essential educational and vocational training. In addition to helping with matriculation, Vida Digna offers tutoring and educational counseling. To date, the Collective has supported 72 young people in integrating into school and training programs.

Employment orientation is one of the Collective's most-requested services. Vida Digna aims to create dignified opportunities for young

people, where their knowledge and abilities are validated and strengthened through employment counseling, workshops, internships, and employment support. In the past two years, more than 41 families have received economic and employment orientations.


If you would like to support a scholarship or offer an internship opportunity, please contact us.    

Migration is an international topic that requires a global understanding. In Guatemala, we see the systemic causes and consequences of migration as well as the intimate and everyday realities of young people and their families when they return involuntarily. Vida Digna is committed to sharing this firsthand knowledge with those who support immigrants in other contexts.

The Collective has established alliances with researchers and interns, principally in the fields of social work and law, from the U.S., Brazil, Mexico, Germany, and Holland, among others.

Coordination of Educational Groups

Community visit by a Rutgers group. Photo by Vida Digna.

The Collective welcomes researchers and professionals to share their experiences and knowledge of the political economy of migration.

One of Vida Digna's strongest collaborations is with the University of Rutgers. Each year, a group of students, professionals, and professors from the School of Law visit Guatemala for a week to research the structural causes of migration and to explore community-based alternatives. Vida Digna provides training and workshops, as well as coordinates visits with community allies and young migrants. The University of Rutgers supports the Collective's advocacy work through community workshops and through roundtables at Guatemalan universities.

We look forward to future collaborations with international groups and postgraduate interns. Contact us for more information.

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