- The Washington Times - Wednesday, February 5, 2020

Being deported from the U.S. to El Salvador can make illegal immigrants targets for abuse or extortion back home, and dozens of deportees were killed over the past decade, according to a new report by Human Rights Watch that tries to put faces and numbers on the situation.

The group tracked down 138 cases where deportees from the U.S. or Mexico were killed since 2013, but said there’s no official tally, and the actual number is “likely greater.”

HRW also tracked 70 cases where deportees were tortured or went missing, usually at the hands of gangs.

“In many of these more than 200 cases, we 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.” the organization said, as it demanded American policies be adapted to protect people by reducing deportations.

Other cases didn’t show any connection between the reasons someone left and the violence they faced on their return — but HRW said the mere fact that they were deported made them targets.

Some longtime U.S. residents who were sent back ran afoul of criminals because they no longer knew the “many unspoken rules” of Salvadoran society, the group said, arguing that’s a reason to curtail deportations and welcome those migrants streaming north.

“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,” the organization said.

The number of cases of murder is low compared when stacked against the population. More than 200,000 people were deported from Mexico and the U.S. to El Salvador during the study period.

And for much of that time El Salvador was one of the most violent countries in the world, with a murder rate topping 100 per 100,000 residents — which would make the killings HRW identified fit in with the general population.

Yet HRW said there’s something about being a deportee that seemed to attract the attention of both police and criminals.

In the case of police, they often assume anyone the U.S. has sent back has gang ties or was convicted of a violent crime, the organization said.

Meanwhile migrants who fled El Salvador after encounters with gangs are victimized by those same gangs when they are deported. HRW recounted the story of a 25-year-old man who fled to the U.S. after an attempted homicide, was deported in 2017, and the very day he arrived back home “the gang members arrived and shot him dead.”

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