New report highlights the dangers of deportation

The U.S. government has deported people to face abuse and even death in El Salvador, a new report by Human Rights Watch (HRW) concluded.
“Some deportees are killed following their return to El Salvador,” the HRW report read. “In researching this report, we identified or investigated 138 cases of Salvadorans killed since 2013 after deportation from the U.S. We found these cases by combing through press accounts and court files, and by interviewing surviving family members, community members, and officials. There is no official tally, however, and our research suggests that the number of those killed is likely greater.”
A major section of Eastie’s population hail from El Salvador, many fleeing the violence and corruption in their homeland for a better life in the states. Of the estimated 1.2 million Salvadorans living in the United States who are not U.S. citizens, just under one-quarter are lawful permanent residents, with the remaining three-quarters lacking papers or holding a temporary or precarious legal status. While Salvadorans have asylum recognition rates as high as 75 percent in other Central American nations, and 36.5 percent in Mexico, the U.S. recognized just 18.2 percent of Salvadorans as qualifying for asylum from 2014 to 2018. Between 2014-2018, the U.S. and Mexico have deported about 213,000 Salvadorans
“No government, UN agency, or nongovernmental organization has systematically monitored what happens to deported persons once back in El Salvador,” read the HRW report. “This report begins to fill that gap. It shows that, as asylum and immigration policies tighten in the United States and dire security problems continue in El Salvador, the U.S. is repeatedly violating its obligations to protect Salvadorans from return to serious risk of harm. Though much harder to identify because they are almost never reported by the press or to authorities, we also identified or investigated over 70 instances in which deportees were subjected to sexual violence, torture, and other harm, usually at the hands of gangs, or who went missing following their return.”
In many of these more than 200 cases, HRW found a clear link between the killing or harm to the deportee upon return and the reasons they had fled El Salvador in the first place.
In 2010, when he was 17, Javier B. fled gang recruitment and his particularly violent neighborhood for the United States, where his mother, Jennifer B., had already fled. Javier was denied asylum and was deported in approximately March 2017, when he was 23 years old. Jennifer said Javier was killed four months later while living with his grandmother.
“That’s actually where they [the gang, MS-13 (or Mara Salvatrucha-13)] killed him.… It’s terrible,” Javier’s mother told HRW. “They got him from the house at 11 a.m.”
In 2013, cousins Walter T. and Gaspar T. also fled gang recruitment when they were 16 and 17 years old, respectively. They were denied asylum and deported by the United States to El Salvador in 2019. Gaspar explained that in April or May 2019 when he and Walter were sleeping at their respective homes in El Salvador, a police patrol arrived “and took me and Walter and three others from our homes, without a warrant and without a reason. They began beating us until we arrived at the police barracks. There, they held us for three days, claiming we’d be charged with illicit association (agrupaciones ilícitas). We were beaten [repeatedly] during those three days.”
In 2014, when she was 20, Angelina N. fled abuse at the hands of Jaime M., the father of her 4-year-old daughter, and of Mateo O., a male gang member who harassed her repeatedly. The U.S. authorities apprehended her at the border trying to enter the U.S. and deported her that same year. Once back in El Salvador, she was at home in October 2014, when Mateo resumed pursuing, threatening and secually abusing her at gunpoint.
“As in these three cases, some people deported from the United States back to El Salvador face the same abusers, often in the same neighborhoods, they originally fled: gang members, police officers, state security forces, and perpetrators of domestic violence,” said the report. “Others worked in law enforcement in El Salvador and now fear persecution by gangs or corrupt officials. Deportees also include former long-term U.S. residents, who with their families are singled out as easy and lucrative targets for extortion or abuse.”
Some people from El Salvador living in the United States have had a temporary legal status known as “Temporary Protected Status” or “TPS,” which has allowed those present in the United States since February 2001 to build their lives in the country with limited fear of deportation. Similarly, in 2012, the Obama administration provided some 26,000 Salvadorans with “Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals” or “DACA” status, which afforded some who had arrived as children with a temporary legal status. The Trump administration decided to end TPS in January 2020, but to comply with a court order extended work authorization to January 2021. It remains committed to ending DACA.
“While challenges to both policies wend their way through the courts, people live in a precarious situation in which deportation may occur as soon as those court cases are resolved,” said the report. “Salvadoran asylum seekers are also increasingly at risk of deportation and return. The Trump administration has pursued a series of policy initiatives aimed at making it harder for people fleeing their countries to seek asylum in the United States.”
The HRW concluded that instead of deterring and deporting people, the U.S. should focus on receiving those who cross its border with dignity and providing them a fair chance to explain why they need protection.
“Before deporting Salvadorans living in the United States, either with TPS or in some other immigration status, US authorities should take into account the extraordinary risks former long-term residents of the U.S. may face if sent back to the country of their birth,” said the report. “The U.S. should address due process failures in asylum adjudications and adopt a new legal and policy framework for protection that embraces the current global realities prompting people to flee their homes by providing “complementary protection” to anyone who faces real risk of serious harm.”

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