US immigration raids as seen from El Salvador

Central America is at the gates of a wave of deportations of its undocumented citizens in the US which will aggravate the precarious situation of the region and could lead to a "certain death" for thousands who left fleeing the gangs.
This is the opening paragraph from an article in El Salvador's leading newspaper La Prensa Grafica on Sunday.   This paragraph highlights how Salvadorans are viewing the raids by US immigration authorities starting New Years weekend which rounded up Central Americans who were under orders of deportation.  The news coverage of these immigration raids at migrant's homes and the subsequent deportations has been constant.

Church leaders in El Salvador denounced the deportations.  The Roman Catholic archbishop of San Salvador, José Luis Escobar, used the occasion of his Sunday press conference to call on president Obama to stop the deportations.    Escobar labelled the deportations unjust and urged the US to adopt comprehensive immigration reform.  Salvadoran Lutheran bishop Medardo Gomez called for migrants who had fled for their lives to be granted asylum in the US, and warned of what could befall them if they were sent back to El Salvador.

US Ambassador to El Salvador Mari Carmen Aponte was forced to give a press conference to defend her country's actions.   She stated that families need to understand that there are consequences for failing to comply with US immigration law which had not changed.   Those who failed to comply with the law would be deported, she said, emphasizing that the current round-ups were for those persons who already had an order of deportation after immigration courts had determined they did not qualify for any available status to remain.

The Salvadoran government announced a program for re-integration of Salavadorans deported back to the country.  

What the New York Times calls a shameful roundup of refugees has been a major foreign policy mistake for the US.    The number of Central Americans being deported in these raids is tiny compared to the more than 21,000 Salvadorans deported from the US and Mexico in 2015.  But the result has been news coverage in El Salvador and throughout Central America where  the US is easily portrayed as a heartless country rounding up mothers and children at the beginning of a new year and sending them back to mortal danger.  It might be a policy intended for political benefits in the US, but if the idea was to deter more migrants from coming it won't work.    The only thing getting more news coverage than the immigration raids is the record wave of violence which forces people to flee..


"I'll be right there with you as a citizen — inspired by those voices of fairness and vision, . . .voices of unarmed truth and unconditional love." President Obama*

*Terms and conditions subject to change. May not apply to Central American women and children fleeing gang wars.
No one said…
This action by the Obama administration was a symbolic PR move. The point was to get exactly the press that it got, and send a message to Salvadorans that they should not expect to be welcomed to the United States. It was an effort to head off the surge of migration that appears to be building again. It is not, as some fear, the first in a wave of deportations. It was not really even inconsistent with the administrations broader policy: Discourage migration but accept those who have legitimate reasons to come.

I feel for the 121 people who were used to set an example, and I think that there are legitimate criticisms of the method that the administration chose to send its message. On the other hand, the recently announced efforts to expand U.N. refugee processing in the region is something that needs to be applauded. Obama is telling our Salvadoran friends that he wants to assist, but that they cannot just flood to the border.