Salvadorans facing deportation

Several recent news stories in the US featured Salvadorans being deported from the US back to El Salvador. One story appeared in the Washington Post and described the situation of a family where the mother, who had arrived in the US from El Salvador illegally many years ago, was rounded up in an pre-dawn arrest by immigration authorities. Her husband and US-born children were left to face the holiday season without their mother.

There was a Fort Worth Star Telegram story about a Salvadoran family which fled to the US San Miguel after they were targeted by gangs. They were apprehended crossing the border in Texas. The father was deported immediately, while the rest of the family now awaits a deportation hearing. Shortly after arriving back in San Miguel, the father was murdered in an ambush by the gang. The family now waits to see if they can persuade a US immigration judge not to send them back.

In a different story involving fear of gangs and deportation, a Salvadoran gang member lost his appeal of a deportation order this week. Jean Pierre Arteaga, who has lived in the US since he was 4, is a gang member who has been convicted of several felonies. He was ordered deported, but had claimed asylum on the grounds that his many tattoos would make him the target of rival gangs.

These three stories are only a tiny glimpse of the more than 20,000 Salvadorans deported from the US during 2007. With almost 2 million Salvadorans in the US, both legally and illegally, US immigration policy will continue to be one of the most important influences on El Salvador's future.

For a look at the current state of the immigration debate in the US, a good overview can be found in Immigration Hardliners Trying to Unhinge America by Peter Schrag.


Anonymous said…
It's a sad new, it's pretty horrendous to know that you're getting deported to face the plight in E.S. you ran away from...

That's how a lot of Call Centers are populating in E.S. feeding their roots and getting rich with deported young people.

And "el tunco" Tony Casaca said that if el Frente had won the government elections on 2005 the remittances could had stopped going to E.S. and also we should have a massive deportation.

And that's what we're having now, a big wave of deportations... once again the ARENARCONAZIS lied.

That's why in 2009 me and my family are going to vote for Mauricio Funes and also el FRENTE.

On 2009, vota FMLN, let's eject all the ARENARCONAZIS.
Anonymous said…
Bush's Global War on Terror in El Salvador

by Wes Enzinna

In September 2006, after the Salvadoran Congress passed the Special Law Against Acts of Terrorism, then-US Ambassador H. Douglas Barclay congratulated the Salvadoran people. "The US and El Salvador are [now] partners in the war on terror," he beamed. The law, modeled on the USA Patriot Act, establishes a special terrorism tribunal and allows for anonymous witnesses and undercover agents to participate in those trials. It also criminalizes acts such as public protests, street blockades and "publicly justifying terrorism" with punishments of up to eighty years in prison. More than a year later, this law has turned scores of Salvadoran citizens into fugitives.

Last July, I spent two weeks in San Salvador chasing down one of these ersatz outlaws -- Sandra Henriquez, a leader of the Salvadoran National Vendors Movement. On May 12 the National Civilian Police (PNC) raided vendors' stalls, including hers, in downtown San Salvador, attempting to confiscate the pirated goods they sell. The vendors resisted, and a group of angry onlookers -- some say provocateurs -- set fire to a police car. Shortly after, 150 riot police showed up and subdued the crowd with tear gas and rubber bullets.

Henriquez avoided arrest, but nineteen others were taken into police custody and charged under the antiterrorism law. At a press conference, President Elías Antonio Saca said, "[The vendors] are terrorists -- the correct word is 'terrorist'.... Anyone who sells something illegal on the streets must go to prison."

On May 30, the government issued a blacklist of suspects accused of participating in the Vendors Movement and thus wanted on terrorism charges. Henriquez was in her home watching her 3-year-old son when she heard that her husband was on the list and had been arrested, along with several others, bringing the total to twenty-two in jail. "What I didn't know was that the government had made the order to capture me as well," she said.

During the country's long civil war, government officials issued similar blacklists -- the next day, many of those on the lists would be dead. "When I found out I was on the blacklist, I fled," Henriquez said.

The vendors were the first activists to be accused under the antiterrorism law, but they will not be the last. On July 2, protesters gathered in the town of Suchitoto to oppose President Saca's plan to "decentralize" the country's water systems, which many believe is the first step toward privatization. As government helicopters swirled in the sky, protesters blockaded the street, preventing Saca's caravan from entering the city. Riot police and PNC agents opened fire with tear gas and rubber bullets, and arrested thirteen people, including four leaders of the rural development organization CRIPDES, as well as journalist María Haydee Chicas.

Thirteen of those arrested are being charged under the anti-terrorism law.

María Silvia Guillén, executive director in El Salvador of the Foundation for Studies of Applied Law, believes the law is being used as a political weapon. It creates "wild cards that allow the concepts and penalties of the law to be invoked or left aside at any given time, influenced by any political motive," she says. Pedro Juan Hernández, a professor of economics at the University of El Salvador, concurs. "The objective of these antiterrorist laws isn't to fight terrorism, because there haven't been acts of terrorism [in El Salvador] in many years," he recently told In These Times.

The Bush and Saca administrations maintain close ties. El Salvador is the only Latin American country with troops still in Iraq and was the first to sign the Central American Free Trade Agreement (CAFTA). The country receives $461 million over five years in US aid through the Millennium Challenge Corporation and is home to the controversial US-run International Law Enforcement Academy (ILEA) in San Salvador.

Despite ample evidence of abuses, US officials have failed to condemn violations of civil liberties in El Salvador. "Whatever step a government takes against terrorism is an appropriate step," said Ambassador Barclay after El Salvador's antiterrorism law squeezed through Congress last year. He also made news when he urged the Salvadoran government to step up its use of wiretaps. Current US Ambassador Charles Glazer has remained silent on the issue and declined to go on record for this article.

US economic interests run deep in El Salvador. After the 1996 privatization of the country's electricity industry, corporations like North Carolina-based giant Duke Energy swooped in to invest. If El Salvador's water infrastructure is privatized, analysts predict, a similar assault will follow.

In May, the Overseas Private Investment Corporation, an agency of the US government, held a conference in San Salvador focusing on "investment opportunities in sectors such as infrastructure [and] energy." CAFTA also streamlines the privatization process and prioritizes strengthening intellectual property laws and punishments, and the ILEA's founding charter establishes intellectual property rights as a prime concern. Elsewhere, the ILEA has said its mission is to "enhance the functioning of free markets." The vendors, however, say that repression has increased since CAFTA and the ILEA came to El Salvador.

Wilfredo Berrios, a labor leader in San Salvador, argues that the recent crackdown is designed to silence protest against Saca's economic policies and to protect the investment climate for foreign businesses. "The opposition to CAFTA and to water privatization has been very strong," Berrios says. "These policies can't go forward unless their opponents are silenced."

Opponents of the new law now include three judges from the San Salvador tribunals, who recently criticized the measure for being too vague. In August, forty-one US Congress members sent a letter to President Saca expressing concern over the arrest of Suchitoto protesters. On September 1, the government dropped all charges against the vendors. But the thirteen people arrested in Suchitoto, including Haydee Chicas, still face terrorism charges and will stand trial in February. If convicted, they could face up to sixty years in prison.

While it has offered rhetorical support for the antiterrorism law, the Bush Administration remains cautious about more direct intervention. After all, US involvement in the country's affairs -- like the massacre at El Mozote, where US-trained soldiers raped, tortured and executed 900 villagers in 1981 -- has caused diplomatic disasters in the past. But like Ambassadors Barclay and Glazer, Washington remains quietly supportive of repression in El Salvador, continuing to deepen and benefit from economic and military ties with the Saca administration.

If the United States has learned to be more hands-off in its relations with El Salvador, President Saca draws a very different lesson from history. In a May 7, speech, he offered an example for today's armed forces to emulate in the "war on terror": Col. Domingo Monterrosa, the commander who led the massacre at El Mozote. "Colonel Monterrosa," Saca said without irony, "knew how to defend the nation, with nobility, in the saddest moment of the Republic."

Wes Enzinna is a freelance journalist -- and a former intern at The Nation magazine.
Anonymous said…
When Salvadorans en masse decide to see the importance to their lives they will stand up in El Salvador.

Until then, people can run and expect someone else to solve their problems; which has not worked at any time in history. Passive anger means nothing.

The young person in the article, who is a criminal, complained that his tattoos would mark him in El Sal. He should have thought of that before joining a gang and committing crimes. I'm certain the tattoos mark him in the US too.

The people in the US are becoming increasingly hostile to its southern neighbors because of the gangs and the perception that 'illegal' persons take jobs and drive wages down. Plus there is some racism.

You should know this.
Anonymous said…
ok ok anti terrorism?????? and what is the punishment for las maras, no sense no correlation right there, el salvador has nothing to do in Iraq nothing NOTHING so i said to the people who is going to vote for FUNES push him to bring all the trups back home, and eliminate htat anti terrorism law that means nothing and give the death penalty to LAS MARAS may be so the kids get scared
Anonymous said…
How dare you validate murder based on the youthful stupidity of a tattoo! Murder should NEVER be justified.

Saca and his idiot goon squad are gang members without the tattoos and should be taken to prison for creating the dangerous rise of gangs in El Salvador. They've amplified gang membership through making it impossible for gang members to leave their gangs.

The U.S. is guilty of premeditated murder. They don't even honor their own visa requirements and Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents have been allowing wealthy drug cartel members to cross our borders from Mexico, KNOWING these murderers to be cartel members. Yet we brand kids and send them to their death.

It is perverted justice when we condemn children and excuse adults for violent acts. I am disgusted with the right winged fascist mentality that has been passed down from Bush's affiliation with Nazis, even as far back as his family's investments in Nazi Germany for profit. That he has joined with cold blooded killers parading around as "decent citizens" under the guise of super mano dura, should disgust any decent human being who believes in ethics and morals.

People like me in the U.S. are growing increasingly hostile to racists and right winged fascists who have no ethics, and undervalue human lives. We are voting this out in 2008, and hopefully we will stop sending our own goons to El Salvador to train Saca's goons to operate as death squads. And to the person here who is complaining about gangs? Go home if you don't like the gangs here. Maybe you'll like them better as Saca teaches them how to become more violent. The U.S. was not founded on hate! Learn it or leave it!