US and Mexico Immigration: Portraits of Guatemalan Refugees in Limbo

Document Type


Publication Date



Indigenous Mayan Communities, Guatemala, Refugees, Mexico, Naturalization laws, Deportation


Many of Guatemala’s refugees produced by its long civil war are still stateless today. The war lasted between 1954 and 1996 and inflicted significant harm, particularly on indigenous Mayans. The conflict prompted 200,000 Guatemalans to flee to Mexico, where up to 43,000 refugees established settlement camps. For more than a decade I have conducted research former refugee settlements in Chiapas, Mexico, near the border of Guatemala. Currently, due to strict naturalization laws, more than 27,000 Guatemalans throughout Mexico remain stateless. Many migrated to the U.S. This essay features photo-documentary work with stateless refugees to examine the impact of draconian immigration measures in both the U.S. and Mexico on this population and to others currently fleeing violence. Recommendations are made in reshaping U.S. foreign policy to align security concerns with upholding the human rights of migrants and their families throughout Central America and Mexico.

Publisher Attribution

The Conversation