El Salvador is dangerous. The murder rate last year was just over 100 per 100,000 residents — one per thousand. That’s even worse than Honduras, where the murder rate is 61 per 100,000. The Peace Corps suspended its program in Honduras in 2012 because of the violence there. On Monday, January 11, the Peace Corps suspended its program in El Salvador “due to the ongoing security environment.”
On New Year’s weekend, the U.S. government launched a series of raids to capture and deport Honduran and Salvadoran women and children who had fled to the United States to seek refuge from violence in their home countries.
The official U.S. position is that the women and children should stay in their homes, regardless of danger, and maybe apply for refugee status while they wait in their homes. That program started a year ago. In July, the Los Angeles Times reported:
“But families will have to look really hard to find this safe and lawful path. Although the federal government seven months ago established in-country processing in Guatemala, El Salvador and Honduras, not one Central American child has been admitted through this channel.
“Why is that? The standards are nearly impossible to meet.”
One year after this unsuccessful program was established, Secretary of State John Kerry promised some unspecified and undefined expansion:
“I am pleased to announce that we have plans to expand the U.S. Refugee Admissions Program in order to help vulnerable families and individuals from El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras, and offer them a safe and legal alternative to the dangerous journey that many are tempted to begin, making them at that instant easy prey for human smugglers who have no interest but their own profits – I might add, making them also prey for one of the great scourges of the world today, which is human trafficking, and many, many people – millions, 20 million-plus – living in a state of modern slavery.”
So let’s get this straight: the U.S. government acknowledges that “vulnerable families and individuals from El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras” need help. But when those vulnerable individuals find themselves in immediate danger and flee to the United States, the U.S. government will respond by deporting them back to danger, and will tell them they need to go through a lengthy refugee application process in their own countries while still living in daily and imminent danger.
Meanwhile, the U.S. government has issued travel warnings to its citizens about El Salvador and Honduras because of the violence there, and has pulled out Peace Corps volunteers — again, because of the dangerous situation in those countries.
For more on Central American refugees and U.S. (non)response:
- Tucson sees new spike in Central American families (Arizona Daily Star, 1/9/16)
“The number of Central American families crossing the U.S.-Mexico border is spiking again — just as the federal government is going after the first wave. …
“Another woman, also from Guatemala, told them how gang members cut off the top of her 9-year-old son’s finger because she wouldn’t pay. …”
- Peace Corps suspends El Salvador program as violence surges (Washington Post 1/14/16)
“Some advocates for immigrants expressed concern Thursday that the Obama administration has shown itself willing to deport people back to the violence-plagued nation while pulling out its own Peace Corps volunteers because of that very violence. ‘It’s very problematic,’ said Guillermo Cantor, deputy research director for the American Immigration Council, a Washington D.C. advocacy group. ‘Even though there is an acknowledgment by our government that the situation in Central America is so serious that U.S. citizens should not be going there under these programs, it’s ok to send people who are fleeing those conditions back to those countries, and who knows what’s going to happen to them?’”
- Trends in Unaccompanied Child and Family Migration from Central America (Immigration Prof Blog, 1/8/16)
- Religious groups offer sanctuary to immigrants targeted in ICE raids (Washington Post, 1/6/16)
“’There is basically a hemispheric bias in our refugee system,’ Hincapié said. ‘These families that are also fleeing violence — the same way as other refugees coming from around the world — are not being welcomed to our country. Instead, we are at risk of deporting them back to their persecutors, deporting them back to their death, deporting them back to rape and sexual assault.’”
- Central American families fear deportation as raids begin (NPR, 1/7/16)
- Deportations stopped for 12 immigrants targeted in raids (AP, 1/5/16)
- Terror en Georgia y Maryland por redadas de La Migra (La Opinion, 1/3/16)