U.S. Relations

US Organizations Demand Justice for Central American Migrants in the United States


(Text in Spanish Below)

We, the Committee in Solidarity with the People of El Salvador (CISPES), US-El Salvador Sister Cities, SHARE, Joining Hands Network (RUMHES), Voices on the Border, and the Center for Exchange and Solidarity (CIS), organizations in solidarity with El Salvador based in the United States, denounce the raids being carried by our government for the purpose of deporting Central American families seeking asylum in the United States.

The repressive and violent actions of US immigration authorities constitute serious human rights violations and generate anxiety and terror in the immigrant community. According to the United Nations, many of the Central American families who migrate to the United States in recent years fulfil the requirements to receive international protection as refugees due to the violent situations in their communities of origin. What’s more, migrant rights defenders have indicated grave failures to provide due process for this population, especially in regards to the right to legal advice. The United States has a moral responsibility and an obligation under international agreements to protect these families and to not return them to dangerous situations.

These mass detentions are part of an immigration system that considers immigration a border security issue rather than a human rights issue. This system focuses on militarizing not just the US border, but also borders in Mexico and Central America, family detention, and mass deportation. These immigration policies are inhumane, and they generate great profits for the defense industry and private prisons that operate immigrant detention facilities; they generate more violence and danger, and infringe on the rights of migrants and refugees.

We affirm that, in addition to the economic inequality and social violence in Central America that generates migration and forced displacement, these phenomena are in large part the result of US intervention in the region. The imposition of neoliberal economic policies like free trade agreements and privatization has created conditions of economic and labor instability and precariousness, and military and security interventions both during the civil war and afterwards through the War On Drugs and the Regional Security Initiative for Central America (CARSI) have aggravated the situation of violence and weakened access to justice throughout the region. Today, under the pretext of putting a stop to Central American migration, the United States is driving the militarization of regional borders through initiatives like the Southern Border Plan with the Mexican government, and now as conditions on funds allocated to support the Alliance for Prosperity Plan for the Northern Triangle of Central America.

Instead of pursuing repressive policies against migrants, the United States government should stop enacting policies that aggravate the economic and social crises in the countries of origin. As organizations based in the United States, we demand the following:

  • An immediate stop to the round ups,
  • That Central American families receive humanitarian aid,
  • That the rights of migrants and refugees be respected,
  • And that the United States government and its ambassador in El Salvador stop imposing interventionist neoliberal and militaristic policies that contribute to the forced displacement and mass migration.

San Salvador, El Salvador

January 19, 2015

Organizaciones Estadounidenses Exigen Justicia Para los Migrantes Centroamericanos en los EEUU

Nosotros, el Comité en Solidaridad con el Pueblo de El Salvador (CISPES), Ciudades Hermanas, La Fundación Share, Red Uniendo Manos contra el Hambre El Salvador (RUMHES), Voces en la Frontera, y el Centro de Intercambio y Solidaridad (CIS), organizaciones de solidaridad con El Salvador con base en los Estados Unidos, denunciamos las redadas realizadas por nuestro gobierno con el fin de deportar familias centroamericanas que buscan asilo en los Estados Unidos.

Las acciones represivas y violentas de las autoridades de migración estadounidenses constituyen una violación grave de derechos humanos además de generar zozobra y terror en la comunidad migrante. Según la Organización de las Naciones Unidas, muchas de las familias centroamericanas que han migrado a los EEUU en los últimos años cumplen los requisitos para recibir protecciones internacionales como refugiados por las situaciones de violencia en sus comunidades de origen. Además, defensores de los derechos de migrantes han señalado graves fallos en la aplicación del debido proceso para esta población, especialmente el derecho a la asesoría jurídica. Los EEUU tienen una responsabilidad moral y de una obligación bajo convenios internacionales de proteger a estas familias y no regresarlas a situaciones de peligro.

Estas detenciones masivas forman parte de un sistema migratorio que concibe de la migración como un problema de seguridad de fronteras, y no como un tema de derechos humanos. Este sistema se enfoca en impulsar la militarización de las fronteras, tanto estadounidenses como mexicanas y centroamericanas, la detención de familias migrantes, y la deportación masiva. Estas políticas migratorias son inhumanas, y enriquecen a la industria militarista y las empresas carcelarias que operan los centros de detención de migrantes; generan más violencia y peligro, y vulneran los derechos de migrantes y refugiados.

Afirmamos, además, que la desigualdad económica y violencia social en Centroamérica que genera la migración y el desplazamiento forzado son resultados en gran parte de las intervenciones estadounidenses en la región. La imposición de políticas económicas neoliberales como los tratados de libre comercio y la privatización ha creado condiciones de inestabilidad y precariedad económica y laboral, y las intervenciones militares y de seguridad tanto en los tiempos del conflicto armado como a través de la Guerra Contra Las Drogas y la Iniciativa Regional de Seguridad para América Central (CARSI) han agravado la situación de violencia y debilitado el acceso a la justicia al nivel regional. Hoy, con el pretexto de querer detener la migración centroamericana, los Estados Unidos está impulsando la militarización de las fronteras regionales a través de iniciativas como Plan Frontera Sur con el gobierno de México y ahora como condición para los fondos destinados a apoyar el Plan de la Alianza para la Prosperidad del Triangulo Norte de Centroamérica.

En vez de proseguir políticas represivas contra los inmigrantes, el gobierno de los Estados Unidos debe dejar de avanzar políticas que agravan las crisis económicas y sociales en sus países de origen. Como organizaciones con base en los Estados Unidos, exigimos lo siguiente de nuestro gobierno:

  • Un alto inmediato a las redadas,
  • Que las familias centroamericanas reciban protección humanitaria,
  • Que se respeten los derechos de los migrantes y refugiados,
  • Y que el gobierno de los Estados Unidos y su embajada en El Salvador dejen de impulsar políticas intervencionistas neoliberales y militaristas que contribuyen al desplazamiento forzado y la migración masiva.

San Salvador, El Salvador

19 de enero de 2015


Learn More about the Bajo Lempa Education Project


On the 1st, we launched a Global Giving fundraising campaign for an intensive educational project in the Bajo Lempa. To date, we’ve recieved numerous generous donations and have less than a week to reach our goal. Today Global Giving will be matching donations at 20%.

Have you been wondering what our Bajo Lempa education project is all about?             Click on the PDF below to get a better understanding of the nuts and bolts and, as always, feel free to share.

LEER, Lograr en Educación Rural / Success in Rural Education

Advocacy, U.S. Relations

18,000 deported from U.S. to El Salvador

In the past twelve months, the United States government has deported over 400,000 immigrants  back to their countries of origin, and according to a report by El Faro, 95% of the deportees were Latin American. The number of deportees has risen by 40,000 since 2008 when almost 350,000 people were deported from the U.S.

The vast majority (286,893) of the deportees were Mexican. The country with the second most deportees is Guatemala (33,324). Honduras is third (23,822) and El Salvador is fourth (18,870). Of those deported, 55% had been charged with some crime in the U.S.

President Obama ran on a platform that included immigration reform as one of his top priorities, but we have still seen no action other than a failed attempt at passing the Dream Act. Certainly much of the inaction on reform is attributable to the Tea Party Movement and the extreme positions taken by the Republican presidential candidates, who seem to stumble over each other to take the most extreme position possible on immigration enforcement.

According to the online journal Infowars, immigration enforcement has been a cash cow for private prisons. There are 2 million immigrants in private prisons in the United States. The government pays these prisons $45-130 per day for their detention.

Though the political climate is not favorable to immigration reform, our politicians need to at least keep trying and we have to keep this issue on the front on the front page of the papers.

International Relations, News Highlights, Politics, U.S. Relations

Former Salvadoran General Faces Deportation from the US

General Eugenio Vides Casanova currently has been living as a legal resident in South Florida since 1989.  He moved to the United States after retiring honorably from his post as El Salvador’s minister of defense, a position he held for 6 years during El Salvador’s brutal civil war.  During this time, he was a close ally of the United States because of his intense efforts against the Marxist guerillas.

In a case that the New York Times calls “an about-face in American policy,” General Vides is now facing possible deportation following being charged with torture in a U.S. immigration court.   This is the first time the Department of Homeland Security has pursued immigration charges against a high-ranking foreign military official.

Both the prosecution and defense are expected to call former U.S. ambassadors to testify: Robert E. White for the prosecution and Edwin G. Corr for the defense.  Another witness is Juan Romagoza Arce, a Salvadoran doctor who was tortured by the National Guard in 1980.

General Vides has already faced legal trouble in the U.S. for his actions during El Salvador’s civil war.  He, along with General José Guillermo García, was accused and acquitted by a Florida jury in 2000 in a civil case for the killing of four American churchwomen who were murdered by Vides’ Salvadoran National Guard.  The same year, the justice center filed charges of torture against the two generals.  In 2002, they were found guilty of torture by a Florida jury and ordered to pay $54.6 million to three torture victims, a decision that was upheld by an appeals court in 2006.

This case is an example of the lingering effects of El Salvador’s civil war, effects that can even be seen in the United States.  No American officials have been held accountable for their part in human rights abuses in El Salvador during the war.  Even though more than 400 people have been deported from the US since 2003 for rights abuses, this is an important effort to hold Salvadoran allies of the US responsible for their actions in a war that often slips under Americans’ radars.

Those who fought on the other side in the war, the FMLN guerillas, have been at odds with U.S. officials since the war, first for their communist/Marxist ideals and later for actions taken during the war.  For example, US diplomats still refuse to meet with El Salvador’s Public Security Minister Manuel Melgar.  He was a guerilla during the war who is accused of killing 4 US Marines in 1985.  In a July 2009 cable released by the WikiLeaks website, American diplomats described seeing his appointment as the imposition of FMLN hardliners, despite President Funes’ pretty moderate political stance.

The case against General Vides is an important step in acknowledging the human rights abuses by both sides during the civil war, including those who the US government strongly supported.  The trial is expected to last a week, so it should be decided by the end of April, which could set a significant precedent for finally responding to El Salvador’s dirty war.


Immigration Reform Update

Just over a year ago, President Obama made many promises, one of which was to fix the broken immigration system.  While his administration has made significant steps in fulfilling promises such as closing Guantanamo Bay and health care reform, immigration reform has been put on the back burner.  Some fear that with the health care debate dragging on, the administration and Congressional leaders may not have the political stamina to push through another highly contentious issue before the 2010 elections.

Rep. Luis Gutierrez (D-Ill) is one of the few politicians who believe immigration to be a pressing issue, and in October 2009 he announced that he is planning to introduce his own immigration reform legislation.  In a press release, Rep. Gutierrez stated,

“[w]e simply cannot wait any longer for a bill that keeps our families together, protects our workers and allows a pathway to legalization for those who have earned it. It is time we had a workable plan making its way through Congress that recognizes the vast contributions of immigrants to this country and that honors the American Dream.  I am preparing such a plan, and will introduce it in the near future.”

If signed into law, Rep. Gutierrez’s bill would have a profound impact on undocumented Salvadorans living in the U.S.  It would, in part, provide a pathway for undocumented workers to earn to a visa or citizenship.  The bill would also make it easier for family members in El Salvador to join their relatives in the U.S. as well as expand the scope of labor rights to include undocumented workers. It would also strengthen the Dream Act so that the children of undocumented immigrants can more easily access public schools in the U.S.

On November 13, 2009, Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano voiced her support for immigration reform, and expressed confidence that it will happen in early 2010.  Speaking at the Center for American Progress, the former govenor of Arizona said that the current economic and political climate are more suitable for reform than in 2007, when the Bush Administration tried to get reform passed.  She cites reports that the flow of undocumented workers is half of what it was in 2007 due to the weakened economy, but warned that the flow is likely to resume as the economy rebounds.  She believes that reform is necessary now, so that the U.S. will be able to better manage the increase of immigrants that will likely follow the rising economy.  Secretary Napolitano also argues that the U.S. has achieved many of its goals in securing the border.  The 700-mile wall, which she opposed as the governor of Arizona, is almost complete; the Border Patrol now has over 20,000 officers securing the border area; and more than 167,000 employers at 639,000 work sites use the E-Verify System.  

In expressing her support, Secretary Napolitano said that reform had to be a “three-legged stool that includes a commitment to serious and effective enforcement, improved legal flows for families and workers, and a firm but fair way to deal with those already here.” Undocumented immigrants, she believes, ought to pay taxes, undergo criminal background checks, and learn to speak English.  Napolitano also echoed one of the common arguments for reform – that immigration is part of the American identity and that the current system is broken.  The status quo, she argues, only hurts American workers and weakens the U.S. economy.  It also encourages migrants to embark on dangerous journeys during which they intrust their lives to smugglers along the Mexico-U.S. border.  And without rights or access to the legal system, undocumented workers are often forced to work for lower wages, which in addition to not being just, adversely affects the wages of all workers. Secretary Napolitano also pointed out that the current visa requirements also harms those in the agricultural and service sectors, who are often unable to find enough workers.  

Richard Hobbs, an immigration lawyer and Associate Director of SIREN (Services, Immigrant, Rights, and Education Network) echoed the sentiments of Rep. Gutierrez and expressed many of the concerns raised by Secretary Napolitano.  Mr. Hobbs recently wrote, “as he holds forth the promise of remaking America, we must hold President Obama to his promise for just and humane immigration reform, with deliberation and due haste.” He goes on to argue tha the Obama Administration’s policies on job creation and health care reform are meaningless to the 12 million people living in the U.S. illegally.  Similar to Rep. Gutierrez and Secretary Napolitano, Mr. Hobbs favors creating a path towards legalization for immigrants who come to the U.S., and work and contribute to our economic development, noting that two-thirds of American voters agree on this point. He also states that 57% of voters support more comprehensive approach to legalization, as opposed to the 28% that would rather rely solely on law enforcement. Mr. Hobbs also adds that legalization would add 12 million new tax-payers to the system, which would increase government revenues.  On its website, SIREN states that they would welcome the reforms offered in Rep. Gutierrez’s bill.

With health care reform debate heading into what may be the final stretch, perhaps Secretary Napolitano’s optimism that immigration reform will happen in 2010 is justified.  It is unlikely that politicians will be willing to take on such a controversial topic too far into the 2010 election year, and the political landscape after November 2010 is more than uncertain.  The time for reform is now. 

Please get inolved in supporting immigration reform now.  Here are a couple links to organizations that are working on immigration reform and related issues:

Reform Immigration for America: http://reformimmigrationforamerica.org/

National Council of La Raza: http://www.nclr.org/content/topics/detail/500/

MALDEF: http://maldef.org/truthinimmigration/

BorderLinks: http://www.borderlinks.org/

SIREN: http://www.siren-bayarea.org/