This book examines changing dynamics of intraregional migration in South America in light of on-going political, economic, and social transformations. The book focuses on migration within the region departing from the still-prevalent trend to study South-North direction, particularly migration to Europe and the United States.

Indeed, South America has undergone several transformations in the dynamics of its international migration flows. While the second half of the twentieth century was characterized by South-North migration, particularly from the Andean Region to the US and Europe; and by transborder migrations within Latin America, the twenty-first century brought about an important diversification of destinations and added complexity to the structural causes of migration as well as to migrants’ motivations and decision-making to migrate. The States’ responses to this new situation also evolved in different ways.

From 2000 onwards, the region witnessed an important growth of forced migration, particularly from Colombia. They were fleeing from social and political violence that has not ceased. In addition, from 2010 on, Caribbean migration from Cuba, Haiti, and the Dominican Republic started arriving in countries it had never reached before, and migration from Asia and Africa increasingly arrived in the region through various means. More recently, the Venezuelan exodus to the whole continent encapsulated the new complexity of migration patterns in South America. Indeed, Venezuelan migration was massive and responded to multiple drivers, from economic scarcity to social violence.

These new migrations took place, on the one hand, amid a changing political environment that produced greater restrictions for migrant mobility, and on the other hand, in a scenario of economic slowdown and regress in social rights in many South American countries. Beyond national contexts, migration flows taking place as a result of displacement and dispossession due to the expansion of global extractive industries in the region have also acquired increased visibility.

Contrary to recent publications that focus on specific migration flows such as Venezuelan or Haitian migration in South America, this book does not address a specific migration flow but, rather, covers several migration patterns to analyze the current dynamics of expulsion, transit, and intake of different geographical areas and how these dynamics relate to each other. The book is interested in the analysis of non-linear flows and emphasizes the relevance of transit migration, of floating mobilities, and of territories as places of permanent circulation where forms of inequality, precarious labor, and diverse types of human rights violations are accentuated. Our aim is to highlight the connections between these new types of mobility, the expansion of capital, and their political management by governments.

In this sense, we hope to contribute with new conceptualizations and research paths that can be considered a basic reference in the field of migration studies in South America and other regions of the globe. The book also aims at providing tools for thinking about the transformations that are in motion in migrations at a global level.

This introduction examines the relationship between new patterns of migration, inequalities, and border controls in present-day South America. It starts with a historical overview of migration patterns in the twentieth century, and then focuses on the multiplication of flows in the past 20 years. A second part discusses the character of new mobility patterns, such as forced, transit, and circular migrations, and their connections with extractive industries, informality, and labor exploitation. Next, it discusses the link between these migration patterns and changes in state migration policies towards border control. The introduction ends with a description of the book chapters.

1.1 Changing Migration Patterns in South America

Migrations have played an essential role in the formation of South American nations. Internal and international migrations were central to the configuration of urban, rural, and frontier spaces in the subcontinent throughout the twentieth century. In addition, forced migrations from Africa were constitutive of the processes of colonization, and later, of the globalization of capitalist accumulation in the nineteenth century. Later, the arrival of European workers, especially from Italy, Spain, and Portugal, contributed to the formation of labor markets and political and national identities in Argentina, Venezuela, Brazil, and Uruguay (Baily & Miguez, 2003; Moya, 2018). Moya (2018) argues that transcontinental migrations have been central processes in the historical formation of Latin America and contribute to understanding the immense ethnic-racial diversity of the continent and, also, its persistent social inequality.

At the regional level, internal migrations have been part of the formation of all South American cities. Occasionally, these migrations spread into neighboring territories, bringing about cross-border movements with a long history. In Argentina, for example, the presence of Paraguayan citizens dates back more than a hundred years, while Bolivian migration has existed for half a century, both along the border and in several cities in the country. Likewise, Argentine and Peruvian presence in Chile has a long history and is an important cross-border population movement to this day. In the Andean region, Colombian migration to Ecuador and Venezuela is long-standing, and population movements of Bolivians and Peruvians in the Altiplano are part of processes that predate the formation of nation-states (Cerruti & Parrado, 2015).

In the second half of the twentieth century, there was a decline in migration from Europe, while three migration patterns set in: South-North migration, especially from several Andean countries to the United States and Canada; the continuation of mainly cross-border and intra-regional labor migration; and transoceanic migration to Europe and Japan, mainly from Peru and Brazil (Donato et al., 2010). Since 2000, however, this landscape has undergone important changes, both in terms of the volume of flows and their characteristics. We highlight three particularly important ones.

First, there has been a sharp increase in migration to Europe, mainly from Andean countries and Brazil (Herrera & Yépez, 2008). The places of destination diversified due to the inclusion of Spain, Italy, and Portugal as important destinations for South American migrations. Migration to the United States continued apace but in a more threatening environment due to increasingly restrictive policies that pushed migrants into clandestine crossings. By 2017, emigrant population from South America reached 8.4 million people (Organización Internacional para las Migraciones (OIM), 2017).

In the case of Europe, migration was initially led by women but gradually became family-based and originates in Peru, Colombia, Ecuador, and Bolivia (Herrera & Yépez, 2008). Migration flows were mainly articulated to the care economy in the case of women and to constructions and agriculture work for men. In the past 20 years, Andean migrants in Spain and Italy have gained access to extensive regularization and nationalization processes, which have allowed them to access social rights and certain forms of social protection in vulnerable contexts such as the pandemic. Nonetheless, very significant inequalities and exclusions still persist compared to the native-born population.

This relative legal stability, however, has not brought about significant socio-economic mobility. In Spain, Fachelli and López-Roldán (2017) show that migrants have not seen significant social mobility, partly due to the 2008 crisis, which produced a blockage in such mobility processes. In addition, Arrans et al. (2017) argues that women tend to stay in the same labor niches and do not get stable work contracts. These studies do not disaggregate the information for the South American population; however, in the case of the Ecuadorian population in Spain, other studies have shown that, after two decades of migration, the vast majority of migrants remain in unskilled occupations: in the areas of construction, agriculture, transportation in the case of men, and in domestic work, care work and hotel services in the case of women (Iglesias et al., 2015; Correa & Tituaña, 2018).

Although some return migration or re-migration to third countries took place, especially in the wake of the 2008 global crisis, overall, most Andean migrants faced the crisis without moving to another place (Correa & Tituaña, 2018; Iglesias et al., 2015). Similarly, migration to Europe from South America continued, but at a slower pace, mainly through family reunification processes.

In the 2000s, migration from certain Southern Cone countries such as Argentina also increased visibly due to the 2001 economic crisis in this country. Since, in many cases, they were descendants of European migrants, this population was able to make use of their intergenerational transnational memory and social networks to settle in the new destinations (Oso & Dalle, 2021). Hence, their experiences of social integration have been more positive than those of Andean migrants, although they are still employed in jobs below their educational levels (Actis & Esteban, 2018).

South American migration to the United States has not stopped, with Brazilians, Colombians and Ecuadorians using the networks and circuits formed over the past fifty years in the country. However, the conditions of this migration have become considerably more precarious due to the hardening of migration policies and, consequently, the clandestine nature of these movements. Moreover, once in the USA, migrants face enormous difficulties obtaining legal residency (Herrera, 2019). A recent report by the Center for Migration Studies of New York City (2021) estimates that undocumented South American migration currently stands at 789,854 and represents 7.7% of all undocumented migration to the United States. It is led by Brazil, followed by Colombia and Ecuador. Statistics from the IOM state that about three million South Americans (with and without legal residency) live in the United States (OIM, 2017). These populations are highly vulnerable and their precarious legal status considerably limits social mobility and access to social protection.

The second dynamic that can be highlighted in these first two decades of the twenty-first century is the growth of intraregional migration (Cerruti & Parrado, 2015). According to OIM (2017), from 2000 to 2015 there has been both an intensification of intraregional cross-border migration and an important growth of extra-continental migration. These new flows emerged as a reaction to the hardening of restrictive policies in countries in the North, and the worsening of economic and political crises in the Caribbean, and in countries such as Venezuela and Colombia. Migration from the Caribbean, mainly made up of Haitians, Cubans and Dominicans, has become significant; that said, since 2015, Venezuelans represent the most important migrant group in South America (Stefoni, 2018; Plataforma de Coordinación Interagencial para Refugiados y Migrantes (R4V), 2021).

Until 2015, Venezuela, along with Argentina, were considered the main receiving countries in South America. Venezuela received migrants from the Southern Cone in the 1970s and 1980s, mainly political exiles, as well as labor migrants from Andean countries. Colombian migration was particularly large until 2015. For this reason, an important part of the flows that are currently leaving Venezuela are Colombian returnees. Argentina, for its part, has been a traditional destination for Bolivian and Paraguayan migration, and, in recent years, Colombian and Peruvian migration also. However, this situation has changed drastically in the past five years, with new destinations developing.

Migration to Chile stands out in this regard. The country reached, in 2019, 1,492,522 migrants, whose main origins were Venezuela, Peru, Haiti, Colombia, Bolivia, and Argentina (Instituto Nacional de Estadísticas de Chile (INE), 2020). This migration is explained, among other issues, by Chile’s economic model based, to a large extent, on the export of mineral and agricultural products that are labor-intensive (Martínez Pizarro et al., 2014). Workers from Bolivia and Haiti are increasingly involved in this economic system. Likewise, cities have absorbed a lot of female and male labor in the service sector. Thus, the historical pattern of Peruvian migration in domestic work has now been joined by the migration of Haitian, Dominican, and, more recently, Venezuelan women (Acosta & Freier, 2015; Galaz Valderrama et al., 2017). Finally, the migration of Colombian populations, many of them Afro-descendants and in need of international protection, has also increased considerably in recent years (Echeverri Buriticá, 2016; Pavez, 2016; Stang & Stefoni, 2016).

Another new migration destination has been the Andean region. In the case of Colombia and Peru, with a very pronounced tradition of South-North migration in the past 50 years, the arrival of Venezuelan migrants has turned them into destination countries. Currently they are the two countries with the largest number of Venezuelan migrants in the region. According to R4V (2021), as of May 2021, there were 1,742,927 Venezuelans and 980,000 Colombian returnees living in Colombia, and 1,095,914 in Peru. In Ecuador, this transformation into a receiving country has occurred in the past two decades with the arrival of around 200,000 Colombians between 2000 and 2020 (Pugh, 2021), mostly people in need of international protection; and, with the migration, in much more modest numbers, of Haitian and Cuban nationals between 2010 and 2015 (Herrera, 2019). As of 2017, Venezuelan migration has taken the first place in the number of immigrants. By July 2021, R4V (2021) estimated there were 451,093 Venezuelans in the country.

Concerning extra-continental migration, the past twenty years show a significant growth of African and Asian migration, especially from Cameroon, Senegal, and Congo, India and Sri Lanka (Ménard, 2018; Yeats, 2019; Freier, 2017). According to Freier (2017, 2021), this growth is first explained by the tightening of migration policies in European countries and the United States, while several South American countries, such as Argentina, Ecuador, Bolivia, and Brazil maintained rather flexible entry policies until recently. Migrants arrive in South America with Brazil and Ecuador as their main ports of entry, but their destinations are generally Brazil, Chile, and Argentina (Ménard, 2018; Freier & Castillo, 2021). Second, many of these migrants were attracted by economic growth in Latin America until 2014. Third, we are dealing with expulsion processes caused by social and political violence, as is mainly the case for migrants from Cameroon or Congo (Yeats, 2019) or due to natural disasters (from India and Sri Lanka) (Yeats, 2019; Freier, 2017). Although their numbers are not as significant as those of other South American migrant groups, their presence has grown visibly at certain border posts such as the Darien jungle in Colombia and Panama or the U.S.-Mexico border. As we will see below, these migrants are part of the prolonged or pendular transit migration that South America is experiencing as a new migratory dynamic.

Additionally, the region has noticed a resurgence of skilled migration (Pedone & Gómez, 2021). Beyond the political exiles of the 1970s and 1980s from dictatorships in Central America and the Southern Cone, the new middle-class migrants are the result of globalization processes, but also of greater regional integration and the economic growth of several Latin American countries in the 2000s, which have expanded the markets for professionals in different fields. As they stand midway between the lack of economic opportunities in their countries and a greater capacity for mobility thanks to the different capital they have acquired in their social trajectories, these migrants face other types of experiences, challenges, and also exclusions (OIM, 2016; Pedone & Gómez, 2021).

Finally, as Herrera and Sørensen (2017) point out, the growth of indigenous migrations is part of this new migration scenario. Latin America has over 650 indigenous groups recognized by their States, whose international migration is acquiring relevance, both due to their numerical impact and to their particular characteristics. The international migration of these groups occurs mainly as cross-border migration, reflecting the fact that their territories have been fragmented by national borders. In Bolivia, Chile, and Paraguay, nine out of ten indigenous immigrants come from a neighboring country.

In some cases, indigenous migration has clearly been forced, such as the displacement of several indigenous groups in Colombia directly affected by armed confrontations, threats and massacres, and the exploitation of their ancestral lands (ACNUR, 2017). In other cases, migration is caused by the marginalization and impoverishment of indigenous peoples, often reproduced at their destination, such as that of the Wayuu people on the Colombian-Venezuelan border (Consuegra, 2021). Both cross-border migration and displacement due to violent conflict are indicative of the forced nature of a large percentage of indigenous migration (Oyarce et al., 2009). It is also important to note that several indigenous peoples such as the Kichwa Otavalos or the Kañaris have started migrating North, to the United States, and, to a lesser extent, to Spain in search of better economic opportunities (Herrera, 2019).

Finally, the scenario that opened up in the 2000s is accompanied by a third characteristic that we will look at in depth in the next section. It involves the irruption of new dynamics in the configuration of the migratory processes, among which the following stand out: transit and circular migrations with an increasingly permanent character, the visibly forced nature of the flows and its connection with extractive industries, and the prevalence of informality and exploitative labor relations.

1.2 New Migratory Dynamics, Precarious Environments and Inequalities

In addition to the diversification of migratory flows and destinations discussed in the previous section, new migratory dynamics have emerged in a transforming economic environment. First, South America is going through an economic slowdown due to the fall of commodity prices, in the context of economies mainly based on extractivist models of development. According to Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC, 2021), South America is entering a process of sustained economic slowdown, which started in 2015, affecting the social and labor conditions of the entire population, although in a differentiated manner. From that year onwards, poverty, inequality, and labor markets deteriorated. First, poverty and extreme poverty are growing again, initially at a slow pace, rising from 27.5% in 2014 to 30.5% in 2019. With the arrival of the pandemic, however, the trend accelerated. ECLAC calculated, for 2020, a poverty rate of 33.7% and a 12.5% extreme poverty rate (ECLAC, 2021, p. 52). Second, the downward trend in inequality experienced in the first fifteen years of the century is reversing and increasing in countries such as Brazil, Ecuador, and Colombia, all of which are new migrant destinations. However, in most other South American countries, it is stagnant. Third, the trend towards the creation of formal employment was reversed and consequently, unemployment and labor informality increased, “due to the progressive inability to absorb the labor supply and create formal jobs, with higher and more stable labor income and inclusion in social protection systems” (ECLAC, 2021, p. 92).

By 2019, workers in low-productivity sectors, characterized by low income, job instability, and lack of access to social protection, reached 49.7% compared to 48.7% in 2010. This deterioration was more pronounced in rural areas, and among the population with incomplete primary education, the indigenous population, and Afro-descendants. Women participate more than men in these precarious sectors (ECLAC, 2021, p. 93).

In such an environment, migrant labor markets in the region are shaped differently. On the one hand, countries such as Argentina and Chile are experiencing more pronounced labor segmentation between migrant and native populations, following the model that exists in the global North. On the other hand, in countries with high rates of informality, such as Peru and Ecuador, migrants and native populations share precarious labor markets (Carella et al., 2021). Recent studies on the exponential growth of labor niches corresponding to transnational digital platforms such as UBER and GLOVO show, precisely, that in countries such as Argentina these jobs are increasingly occupied by Venezuelan migrants and other nationalities, while in countries such as Ecuador and Colombia these niches are shared among migrant workers and native populations (Beccaria et al., 2020; Salazar & Hidalgo, 2021).

With regard to the presence of extractive industries, mining and oil production in the Andean countries and soybean or extensive agriculture in the Southern Cone continue to be the countries’ main sources of income, and their expansion has been prioritized by Pink Tide governments as well as by administrations with openly neoliberal policies (Acosta, 2011; Svampa, 2019).

Extractivist models of development have historically attracted internal, as well as regional and international migration in many countries of the region. The chapter by Stefoni, Stang and Rojas in this book, examines the case of Antofagasta (Chile), a mining production area with a history of mobilities of more than 100 years. Another example is oil production in Venezuela which was an important pole of attraction for regional workers from Peru, Colombia, and Ecuador in the 1970s (Ramírez et al., 2019; Páez & Vivas, 2017). In recent years, migrant labor working in illegal mining operations has been identified in several areas of expansion of mining production in the region. Migrants’ participation in this activity was driven by the deterioration of urban labor markets resulting from the economic slowdown. These migrants come from very diverse national backgrounds—Colombian, Peruvian, Bolivian, Haitian, and Venezuelan—and they work in extremely precarious conditions. The labor conditions and forms of recruitment of these migrant populations need further research.

Within this structural context of labor precarity and the expansion of the extractivist model, we detected at least three intra-regional migratory dynamics that differ from the traditional cross-border labor migrations of previous decades. These dynamics are documented in several chapters of the book.

First, there is a diversification of the causes of displacement, both in structural terms and with regards to the motivations of people for leaving their countries. In addition to the economic needs that have been described to explain why people leave their communities to live in other countries, there have been displacements caused by political and social violence, expulsions due to mega-infrastructure projects, or humanitarian crises caused by natural disasters. In some territories, the combination of all these phenomena explains the outflow of their population.

The case of Haitian migration is paradigmatic in this regard. It is a diaspora that has a long history of migration but, following the 2010 earthquake, they began to migrate to South America. Since then, the Haitian presence in Ecuador and Chile and, to a greater extent, in Brazil, as analyzed in the text by Cavalcanti, Tonanti, and Amador in this book, has become increasingly prominent, with a corresponding multiplicity of causes: from poverty to processes of territorial expulsion, social and political violence, the collapse of institutions, and natural disasters.

On the other hand, the internal, intra-regional, and extra-continental migration of the Colombian population also has very complex and multidimensional characteristics. In addition to the armed conflict and political violence that marked forced displacement in the first decade of 2000, new causes related to displacement caused by infrastructure projects, extensive crop cultivation, and social violence have now been added.

The causes of the Venezuelan exodus are also currently the subject of both academic and political debates on whether it is a predominantly economic migration or whether we should consider it the result of the collapsing of social institutions and increasing violence that jeopardize people’s access to health, food, and a safe environment, all of which have converted it into forced migration, according to the international instruments signed by most countries in the region, such as the Cartagena Convention (Blouin et al., 2020). UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) has promoted the understanding of this migration within the framework of a humanitarian crisis that allows the activation of emergency public policy mechanisms (Alto Comisionado de las Naciones Unidas para los Refugiados (ACNUR), 2020).

In other words, one of the most relevant trends in contemporary South American migration is its forced nature, and this is expressed both in the dizzying growth of asylum applications and in the ever-increasing experience of clandestine and vulnerable migrants traveling around the continent and who do not consider themselves or are not recognized as persons in need of international protection. Precisely, the text contributed by Moya, Sanchez, and Pugh, shows, regarding the Colombian and Venezuelan case, the inconsistencies that occur between the political-media rhetoric and the institutional practice of their recognition as forced migrations. This ambiguity has also led to the increasingly frequent use of the term mixed migrations, a subject addressed in this book in the chapter by Gómez and Herrera. In addition to this forced character, on other occasions, their journey often includes clandestine crossings due to the restrictive policies of countries in the North, policies that, as we will see later on, have been progressively adopted by South American countries. This has also led to migrants’ travel and movement with the involvement of smugglers. Berg and Pérez’s chapter in this book examines the customary legal practices and negotiations that migrants establish with smugglers to secure their arrival in the United States when traveling from Ecuador.

Second, this leads us to consider the growing presence of prolonged transits in South American migrations as a new migratory dynamic whose consequences are just beginning to be discerned. These states of transit could last several months and even years. A recent study at the Mexican border of Tijuana, among migrants from Haiti, Cameroon, Eritrea, Cuba, Angola, Guinea, and Senegal found that the main countries of departure were Chile (56%) and Brazil (33%). These countries were also their first country of residence and the majority remained in these countries between one to three years (OIM, 2019). Indeed, Alvarez’s work in this book addresses the emergence of new migration routes in the region that include these long transits. Recent studies on Venezuelan migration also show that many of the migration trajectories begin with extended periods in Colombia, stays in various cities in Ecuador, and subsequent travel to Peru and Chile. Due to the frequency of this kind of mobility, the United Nations inter-agency platform established to coordinate international aid for Venezuelan population introduced in 2020 among its projections the statistic of pendular migration for the Colombian case, which reaches 1,000,087 individuals, and migration in transit. The latter corresponds to 162,000 people in Colombia, 90,264 people in Ecuador, and 75,555 people in Peru (R4V, 2021).

During the pandemic, these prolonged transits took on new shapes and we witnessed a return migration of Venezuelan populations due to evictions, fear of contagion, and lack of jobs resulting from stay-at-home orders ((In)movilidad en las Américas, 2020b). By the first half of 2021, these processes had already ceased and the outflow from Venezuela had been reactivated, which came to reinforce the pendular and circular nature of this migration.

Prolonged transits and mobility between countries is a common phenomenon in other migration corridors such as the Central American migration corridor to the United States (Basok et al., 2016; Álvarez, 2016) or among African migrants crossing Morocco (Collyer, 2007; Collyer & de Haas, 2012; Schapendonk, 2012), but it is a relatively new phenomenon for South America. These new migration patterns challenge traditional dichotomies of settlement versus permanent mobilities, and they raise new issues for how states may respond when mobility becomes a permanent state.

Finally, while not necessarily new, more complex dynamics of social inequality involving race and gender are taking place in the region and need further research. With regard to gender inequalities, there is an important array of studies on historical cross-border female experience (Cerruti & Gaudio, 2010; Magliano, 2013), and on the more recent migration to Europe that has been extensively analyzed in the cases of Colombia, Ecuador, Peru, and Bolivia (Ariza, 2021). The work on women’s migration to Europe was mainly centered on domestic work and transnational care chains, and it was linked to a reflection on global inequalities. For Guizardi et al. (2018), the concentration of these studies on issues of motherhood, transnational families, and social protection has neglected other female and gendered experiences that have not been sufficiently analyzed by gender and migration studies.

Indeed, women form a substantive part of the new intra-regional migrations described above. Gender approaches to the forced nature of migrations, gender violence and gendered experiences in transit migration need more analysis in the region (Ariza, 2021). Each of these dimensions is related to growing social inequality, which the COVID-19 pandemic brought out in force.

But in addition, both the indigenous and the Afro-descendant populations are a significant part of South American migrations, a fact that calls our attention to processes of racialization in migration. In this regard, there are some important works on Afro-Colombian and Haitian populations in Chile (Tijoux, 2016; Echeverri Buriticá, 2016) that examine racism and also the intersection between racism and sexualization as markers of inequality for new migrants (Stang & Stefoni, 2016; Pavez, 2016). The contribution of Tijoux and Ambiado in this book aims to make visible a type of racism whose reporting will be increasingly urgent in the region, as it is entrenched in state institutions, in this case in those working in the health sector. Blouin’s and Zamora’s chapter also analyzes xenophobia in environments characterized by structural racism instituted in our countries in colonial times.

In short, as Pinto and Cisternas (2020) point out for the Chilean case, studies of this new migratory moment with an intersectional perspective of race, class are gender are still scarce. In addition, the relationship between social inequalities, intersectionality and migration needs further analysis. In this sense, Sergio Caggiano’s text on Bolivian migrant Workers Associations in Buenos Aires offers a reflection on the strategic use of certain social categories by migrants on their way toward the politization of their demands. Caggiano presents a discussion of how categories such as class, gender, and generational differences are embodied in different experiences of social inequalities, beyond nationality.

1.3 Migration Policies in South America

The evolution of migration flows in South America brought about significant changes in terms of state policies. Different political and economic cycles, along with new forms of mobility and geographical (re)configurations in migration routes on a global scale have had direct effects on migration management at both the national and regional levels.

In spite of the important differences that exist between countries in the region we can distinguish three different periods, both in how states conceived of migration and in how that vision resulted in legal and administrative policies. The first period traverses the second half twentieth century into the first years of the twenty-first century. During this stage, the position of South American states on migration fluctuates between invisibility and utilitarian recognition. The latter came about because of the important macroeconomic effects created by remittances from migration and, at the same time, in micro-social terms, due to the direct support of household economies in the face of the state’s inability to ensure social reproduction (Martínez Pizarro, 2011; Stefoni, 2011; Eguiguren, 2018). On the other hand, this period is characterized, by the persistence of very restrictive and selective immigration legislation and policies, despite the fact that at this time immigrant arrivals are, in general, of little relevance (Acosta & Freier, 2015; Ramírez, 2014; Novick, 2008).

The second stage is triggered by several events that determine the nature of the migration policies that are implemented. We highlight, on the one hand, the securitization offensive that occurred after the attacks of September 11, 2001, and that led to the imposition of restrictive measures and controls in the United States and Europe, along with an exponential increase in deportations (Herrera & Sørensen, 2017). Along with this, in the North, the 2008 economic-financial crisis produced important South-bound migrations both of South American populations in return processes, which gave rise to aid policies for their installation and reintegration (Moncayo, 2011), as well as of European, American or Canadian populations drawn by the improved economic situation and policies aimed at attracting qualified personnel and senior investors (Vega et al., 2016; Pedone & Alfaro, 2015; Hayes, 2012, 2014). All this coincides, moreover, at the beginning of the 2000s, with a change in the political cycle in most South American countries, a change characterized by the arrival of governments known as post-neoliberal (Acosta, 2012). This cycle coincided with the exponential growth of South American migration to Europe. In this period, migration policies in South America were focused on strengthening political ties with emigrants through various policies focused on connecting emigrants to their countries of origin (Moraes et al., 2009; Margheritis, 2016). According to Margheritis, who analyzes the diaspora policies of Ecuador, Argentina, Brazil, Uruguay, and Mexico in that period, these attempts at transnational governance reached very unequal levels of institutionalization and focused primarily on strengthening political relations with the diaspora to the detriment of social protection. With regard to immigration, these governments used rights-based policies to deal with the arrival of regional and international migrant and refugee populations.

This is reflected in the approval in several countries of progressive regulatory frameworks, or at least frameworks that were not as restrictive as in the previous stage, which aimed to respond to the new forms of mobility from a rights-based perspective. Additionally, free regional mobility initiatives (Domenech, 2007) and migration regularization processes for South American citizens multiplied in this context, all in the name of a “post-national” conception of citizenship (Ramírez, 2016). Such initiatives would materialize within the framework of various regional agreements: MERCOSUR, CAN, and UNASUR (Acosta & Freier, 2015).

Finally, from 2015 onwards, a new cycle begins, which extends to the present day, where openly restrictive rhetoric and policies are progressively established, even more openly in contradiction with the legal frameworks enshrined in previous years, or even with the late laws enacted in 2017 in Brazil, Ecuador, and Peru, which are still framed in rights-based approaches. The change was not only backed by the political shift towards neoliberal governments in different South American countries (Argentina, Brazil, Ecuador, and Chile), but it was also driven by the unprecedented Venezuelan migration process, which, precisely, deepened starting in 2015, giving rise to very dissimilar policies in different countries, with ad hoc responses predominating (Acosta et al., 2019).

This moment would be characterized, on the one hand, by the development of policies almost exclusively focused on this flow, both in terms of regularization and social inclusion (the latter being much more limited than the former). On the other hand, there was an ambivalent positioning with respect to existing regional agreements. In 2021, the CAN was strengthened while UNASUR has all but been dissolved. In general, however, there has been a return to the national management of migration, and positioning of migration as a threat to security and economic stability (Brumat, 2019).

The COVID-19 pandemic, which broke out in South America in March 2020, was, on the other hand, an endorsement of the more recent approach, as the health emergency became a legitimizing element of the almost total restriction of mobility. Migration policies have since been marked by the imposition of closures at border crossings, as well as their militarization, along with the criminalization and stigmatization of irregular migration ((In)movilidad en las Américas, 2020a) or the strengthening of legal mechanisms for deportation, particularly visible in Chile (Stang & Lara, 2021). The modification in December 2020 of the Organic Law on Human Mobility in Ecuador, approved in 2017, or the enactment in Chile of the Law on Migration and Foreigners in April 2021, after years of intense debate, were clear demonstrations of the new predominance of securitization, where migration was connected to crime and irregular migration criminalized.

It is necessary to warn that, although it might seem that one type of migration policy paradigm predominates in each of the three stages described (based on security, development, or human rights), on the practical level, the preeminence of one or another model has not been so clear, producing rather, as Eguiguren (2018) points out, convergences between models with legitimizing effects on the policies subsequently developed.

This fact is particularly visible in the second phase analyzed, where numerous contradictions can be distinguished in countries such as Ecuador, Argentina, Chile, Uruguay, and Brazil. In the first two, for example, during the Kirchner and Rafael Correa governments, an intense debate on migration was promoted that placed the rights of both emigrants and immigrants—whatever their administrative situation—at the center of the processes of mobility management. This is reflected, in turn, in the enactment of regulations that set regional benchmarks. In the case of Argentina, the 2010 rules regulating 2003 Migration Law No. 25.871 had a clear tendency toward the non-criminalization of migration and the search for regularization instruments. In the case of Ecuador, the 2008 Montecristi Constitution included extensive articles dedicated to migration concepts such as “universal citizenship” or the recognition of the right to migrate (García Zamora & Gainza, 2014).

However, some authors question whether this period, compared to the predominant securitization models in the countries of the North is truly exceptional (Domenech, 2017; Ruiz & Álvarez Velasco, 2019). Among other points, they note that there is a difficult gap to bridge between rhetoric that insists on the necessary treatment of migrations from a rights-based approach, the enactment of fundamental laws in line with that discourse, and the subsequent rupture that occurs between what is stated in these legal instruments and their practical-administrative application, since what prevails is a concrete form of migration governmentality based on the premises of order and control, which are then shrouded with a “human face” (Domenech, 2013).

Similarly, there has been no real correspondence between the idea of “rights for all” that we find in some regulations and the migration policies that have actually been established. In this sense, not only do the dichotomies between the emigrant and the immigrant continue to operate, the former being the object of a large part of states’ rights-based public policies—at least during the first decade of the 2000s—(Eguiguren, 2018), but also policies that separate the “wanted” from the “unwanted” immigrants have been noticeable. This distinction is often based on economic considerations, but also on national origin. Thus, the institutional framework has backed unequal practices that tend to be focused on populations from countries in the South (Acosta & Freier, 2015; Oyarzún Serrano et al., 2021).

This has led authors such as Freier (2013) to speak openly of the existence of structural and institutional discrimination based on cultural and ethnic traits that have been spreading from extra-continental populations (Asians, Africans, and Middle Easterners) to populations from South American countries (Colombians, Venezuelans, Bolivians) and Caribbean countries (Cubans and Haitians).

On the other hand, these authors insist that the innovative concepts introduced in the new legislation that emerges from this process do not manage to transcend the printed law and become applicable and universalizable models, either because they are ambiguous in their own definitions or because their application would require a level of state commitment that would not generate many political returns (Acosta & Freier, 2015).

All these contradictions became much more visible in the new stage that began in 2015 and in which Venezuelan migration acquired an indisputable prominence. From this moment on, it became more evident that the measures adopted seemed to ignore the legislative frameworks previously drawn up and enacted by the states, making it impossible to consolidate coherent migration policies (Acosta et al., 2019). Most of the countries have resorted to very short term measures that are incapable of dealing with the volume of the flows, as they have not managed to solve the high rates of irregularity. Such measures have also focused on generating temporary regularization processes through the approval of specific visas for Venezuelans or the imposition of barriers that prevent them from entering and settling (Herrera & Cabezas, 2019; Stefoni & Silva, 2018; Blouin, 2021). Thus, an equivocal approach to migration, which been carries over from the previous stage, has congealed by considering migration to be a short-term phenomenon, which has led to a constant recourse to emergency measures to respond to periods of increased arrivals, waiting for the flow to decrease or reverse its trend. Migration policy, therefore, does not appear in most South American countries as an articulated set of measures, but presents a fragmented and arbitrary form.

Concerning migration policies, it is necessary to highlight another issue that appears as a common element in many South American countries. We refer to the weak development of policies focused on social insertion and protection, including the existence of policies that hinder access to basic social benefits (Galaz Valderrama et al., 2017). This fact shows, once again, the profound contradictions that exist between the approved regulations and their practical application. As we saw earlier, many of the progressive legislations guarantee access to basic rights: education, work, health, or housing, leading to the full participation of migrants in social and economic terms in the countries where they have settled, but later this does not materialize in the form of concrete and permanent measures.

Although there are considerable differences between countries, especially between those with little tradition of receiving migration, such as those in the Andean region, and others such as Argentina or Brazil, in general, state policies aimed at the inclusion of the migrant population are very limited. As Galaz Valderrama et al. (2017) point out, referring to the Chilean case, these policies were developed in isolation, were not usually directed at all migrant populations, and suffered from a strong lack of coordination.

These problems are due, in part, to a combination of several elements. We highlight here the three main ones. On the one hand, the temporary and short-term vision continues to predominate in many countries concerning regional and international migration. Palacios et al. (2019) identify this, for the Colombian case, as a veiled reluctance of States to recognize themselves as countries receiving mass migration. On the other hand, there is a particularization of migratoion flows, focusing attention on those that present a greater intensity in a specific period, which generates exclusion processes for citizens of other countries that are not considered priority subjects. Finally, we can mention the fragility of States in terms of welfare policies and decent and safe work, a problem that also affects their own national populations (Carrasco & Suárez, 2018).

The lack of inclusion and social protection policies, as well as of an institutional framework that guarantees the rights of these populations, leads to one of the main distinctive elements of migration administration in South America: the outsourcing of this administration to international organizations and NGOs, which are in charge of assisting States and managing migration. The gradual replacement of public policies by interventions of a humanitarian nature allows some migrants to have access to certain basic services and some job opportunities, but, in general, it causes dependence of both migrants and States on the flow of international cooperation funds and, above all, deepens the problems previously mentioned: fragmentation, lack of coordination of public policies, and lack of equal and permanent access to basic services for all migrant populations. This trend has consolidated in the last two years via the combined effect of the pandemic, the economic collapse of many countries, and the international management that is taking place with regards to Venezuelan migration, through the massive injection of transnational capital available for humanitarian intervention (Ramírez, 2020).

Finally, we find a similar picture with regard to the international protection of refugees. On the one hand, the widespread compliance with international regulations that introduce high standards of protection, such as the Cartagena Declaration of 1984 and its expanded definition of refugees, its transposition into national legislation since the late 1990s; on the other, a subsequent practical implementation that is marked by three types of behavior that have greatly weakened the international protection system applied in the region.

The first corresponds to a restrictive reading that contradicts what has been enacted, limiting the possibilities of achieving refugee status through the imposition of multiple barriers (Ecuador and Argentina) or directly by not applying the regulations that do exist (Chile, Peru, Colombia, Bolivia, and Uruguay). The second involves the use of legislation as a protective measure, but selectively and temporarily, that is, according to national origin and, connected to this, to the geostrategic position of the receiving State vis-à-vis the expelling State in a given period (Brazil with respect to Venezuelan, Syrian, and Palestinian populations; Ecuador with respect to Colombian populations). The third corresponds to a substitution of international protection by “humanitarian” migratory measures focused on seeking temporary regularization, but not real protection or recognition of the causes of forced displacement (humanitarian visas for Syrians in Argentina, Haitians in Brazil, or Venezuelans in Colombia, Ecuador, Peru, or Chile) (Figari Costa & Penchaszadeh, 2017; Gómez Martín, 2022).

On the other hand, as in the case of migration, there is a lack of coordinated and permanent social inclusion policies for refugees and asylum seekers. The drawing up of these has been replaced by measures promoted by international cooperation (Hurtado Caicedo et al., 2020), which are more focused on processes linked to humanitarian attention than to true inclusion and protection conceived for the long term or extendible to all populations in need.

The pandemic has also had an impact on the deepening of measures that weaken the international protection of refugees. During the current health crisis, different actions have been carried out, which have led to a misrepresentation of the rights of these populations. The most serious of all are the effective impossibility of exercising the right to seek refuge due to border closures, but they also include the restriction of internal mobility, the persecution of informal workers, the consolidation of deportation processes of possible refugee applicants, and, in general, a blackout in access to other rights associated with protection such as health, education, or housing (Gómez Martín, 2021).

1.4 Content of the Book

We have divided the book into three sections that capture emergent issues in the field of South-South migration in the region. The first part includes three texts that deal with new forms of mobility, the categories we use to refer to them, as well as the factors that boost these new mobility, Most of the time these are linked to extremely precarious labor insertions.

The first text, “Extractive Economy and Mobility. The Case of Large Copper Mining in the Antofagasta Region” by Carolina Stefoni, Fernanda Stang, and Pablo Rojas, addresses the relationship between extractive industries and migrant labor in mining production in Antofagasta, Chile. This work not only shows the different types of mobility generated directly or indirectly by extractive production, but also the inequalities that go hand in hand with the processes of incorporation of these workers in the city. Inequalities must be read through the prism of intersectionality between the class, national or international origin of migration, gender, ethnicity, and racialization.

The second text, “Between Hostility and Solidarity: The Production of the Andean Region-Southern Cone Transit Migratory Corridor” by Soledad Álvarez, presents an analysis of prolonged transits in the new migratory routes that have formed in the region. The author analyzes, specifically, from an ethnographic and multiscale work, the formation of the migratory routes of the Andean-Southern Cone Region. It examines the regional dynamics that have allowed its configuration, as well as the migratory experiences, the strategies of solidarity and care of migrants of five nationalities that travel on this route: Dominicans, Cubans, Haitians, Sudanese, Nigerians, and Venezuelans. The aim is to show the tension that occurs in these routes between prolonged and permanent travel and the control policies that the different States try to impose.

The text by Carmen Gómez and Gioconda Herrera, “State and ‘Mixed Migrations.’ Migration Policies toward Haitians, Colombians, and Venezuelans in Ecuador,” analyzes the diversification and complexity of the causes that characterize migration in the region. Through the Haitian, Colombian and Venezuelan cases, the chapter reviews, from a critical perspective, the concept of mixed migrations, which has become increasingly prevalent in the past decade to designate migrations in which their forced or voluntary nature have blurred boundaries. The authors show how the practical application of the concept in a context such as Ecuador’s has led to a weakening of the international protection system for refugees, making invisible the forced nature that characterizes most of these flows.

The second section of the book entitled: “Law and Migration Policies: From Human Rights to Border Closures” has three other texts. In this section, the authors outline the new situation of migration policy in the region with its continuities, paradoxes, and tensions, marking the move towards policies anchored in global frameworks of border control to the detriment of policies with a human rights perspective that had been predominant in the first 15 years of the twenty-first century. They also show migrants’ use of legal mechanisms to ensure their mobility in the midst of restrictions.

In the first chapter of this section, “A Decade of Growth in Migration in Brazil (2010–2020) and the Impact of the COVID-19 Pandemic,” Tânia Tonhati, Leonardo Cavalcanti, and Antônio Tadeu de Oliveira analyze the evolution of migration policy in Brazil, a country that has (re)entered the global migration scene by becoming an important destination in South-South migration. The authors analyze the interrelationship between the arrival of new regional and extra-continental migratory flows to the country and the legal and institutional changes in migration policy. They show how the ambiguity of these policies expresses the tensions and contradictions between the drive towards border control and processes of democratization and social integration of migrants.

The text by Jennifer Moya, Consuelo Sánchez Bautista, and Jeffrey D. Pugh, “Contradictions and Shifts in Discourse and Application of the Refugee System in a Mixed-Migration Context: The Ecuadorian Case,” analyzes the evolution of the refugee policy of another emblematic country in the previous decade in the search for democratic frameworks in the treatment of immigrants and refugees in the region. The text shows how Venezuelan migration accelerated a process already underway in the early 2010s, and of limits in the application of asylum policies in that country that is repeated throughout Latin America.

The third chapter of this section, “The Legality of (Im)mobility: Migration, Immigrant Smugglers, and Indigenous Justice in Southern Ecuador” by Ulla Berg and Lucia Pérez Martinez, addresses a different aspect resulting from border control and security-based policies, which is the role of ancestral indigenous legal systems recognized by the state since 1998 in providing guarantees for migrant’s clandestine travel. The chapter shows that migrants find in these alternative legal systems a way to avoid being deceived by smugglers.

Finally, the third section looks at the different forms of racism and inequalities of these new migration patterns. It focuses on both the role of state policies and social institutions in the reproduction of racism and on how migrants themselves inhabited and disputed intersected inequalities. The chapter by Blouin and Zamora, “Institutional and Social Xenophobia towards Venezuelan Migrants in the Context of a Racialized Country: The Case of Peru” examines interactions between racism and xenophobia in Peru against the Venezuelan community from an institutional and social perspective, addressing how both perspectives are relational and self-sustaining in a context of historical racialization. The chapter focuses on how xenophobia is produced by institutional practices and their social repercussions in a country with a profound colonial legacy that racialized social inequalities.

In the same vein, “When Migrant Pain Does Not Deserve Attention: Institutional Racism in Chile’s Public Health System” by María Emilia Tijoux Merino and Constanza Ambiado Cortés focuses on how the concept of institutional racism becomes a covert racism, consolidated in the very functioning of institutions, which also becomes expressed in everyday interactions between public health professionals and immigrant patients. These interactions reflect how administrative difficulties, pitfalls in resource allocation, and the power of “expertise” in health care push immigrants out of the system or compel them to invent new ways of confronting a system that racializes them.

We end the book with Sergio Caggiano’s chapter “Inequalities and The Social Process of Categorizing: Migrant Work in Argentina’s Garment Industry” which deals with how Bolivian migrants' associations in the garment industry in Buenos Aires transformed their political identity from a national to a focus on entangled inequalities. Caggiano discusses migrants' self-representation and agency regarding different social categories of inequalities: class, gender, age, and nationality. And, he examines the way in which these social categories are entangled with migrants' own understanding of exploitation, discrimination, and exclusion. In doing this, Caggiano offers an innovative path for an analysis of migrant struggles and entangled inequalities.