The US Deported Them. 138 Are Now Dead

Human Rights Watch documents cases of murdered Salvadorans
By Newser Editors,  Newser Staff
Posted Feb 5, 2020 7:11 AM CST
They Sought Safety in US, Ended Up Dead at Home
In this Oct. 10, 2019, file photo police guard next to a graffiti wall with the name of a gang as part of a routine patrol in Lourdes, La Libertad, El Salvador.   (AP Photo/Eduardo Verdugo, File)

The report is called "Deported to Danger," and for at least 138 Salvadorans, danger is putting it too mildly. In its report released Wednesday, Human Rights Watch says that's the number of migrants and asylum seekers that were murdered after the US deported them back to El Salvador. Those deaths came at the hands of gangs, police and military, death squads, and former partners over the 2013-2019 period. The bulk of the deaths happened within a year of the person's deportation—for some, it was just days—and came from "the same perpetrators they had tried to escape by seeking safety in the US," as the Guardian puts it. HRW found another 70 instances of deportees being sexually assaulted or tortured.

HRW isn't heaping all the blame for these deaths on the US. "But in many cases the US is putting Salvadorans in harm’s way in circumstances where it knows or should know that harm is likely," it writes. It also adds that 138 is likely a conservative figure, as it was arrived via court records, news articles, and interviews—but many crimes aren't reported, and some areas are so dangerous that journalists steer clear. Of the 138, 109 were deported under President Obama, reports the Washington Post, though HRW expects the situation "will only worsen" under this administration, which has made it tougher for Central Americans to gain asylum. The AP notes that the number of Salvadorans seeking asylum in the US surged almost 1,000% between 2012 and 2017. About 18% were granted it. HRW recommends the US take six steps to address the situation; they're outlined here. (More deportation stories.)

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