Date of Graduation

Fall 12-31-2022

Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts in Migration Studies


College of Arts and Sciences


Migration Studies

First Advisor

Belinda Hernandez-Arriaga


Though Central American asylum seekers are presently hypervisible in the U.S. consciousness, this population continues to be inadequately understood or cared for. Discussion of this population often presents them as a helpless and damaged population, in need of saving, fixing, or shelter -- beyond their trauma, they cease to exist. This qualitative study utilizes first-person testimonio methodology to understand the psychological experiences of Central American migrants seeking asylum in the United States, the stressors they face, and the mental health support that can and should be provided to them. Their stories speak to a space of sociopolitical precarity in the U.S., where their existence is regulated by an immigration system that greets them with a carceral reception. This reception complicates their ability to process their migration experiences, which they must do while also navigating the logistics of their fight to attain asylum and remain long-term in the U.S. Over the course of two years along the U.S./Mexico border, including five intensive days in a McAllen, Texas humanitarian center, this study explored the hopes, feelings, dreams, and needs of Central American migrants in vivid detail: their faith, family values, and desire to contribute equally to the transnational communities they are now a part of. Their testimonios can and should inform better practice in a new generation of psychology activist-practitioners engaged not only in their holistic wellness, but also constructing a new immigration policy landscape that recognizes and attends to their humanity.