Fact-finding mission warns of emerging threat to lives of Central American migrants

Press Release

San Salvador - Members of CISPES’ fact-finding mission to El Salvador shared initial results of their investigation into U.S. involvement in the militarization of Central American borders during a widely attended press conference. In the wake of Congress’ decision to condition a $750 million aid package on actions by the governments El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras to “secure their borders” to stop migrants and asylum-seekers who may be en route to the United States, the delegation of students, educators, social workers and activists visited El Salvador to find out more about the early impacts.

Just after the delegation began, over 500 Salvadorans were arbitrarily deported from Guatemala, despite regional accords that guarantee free movement of citizens between the two countries, along with Honduras and Nicaragua. “We are extremely concerned about U.S. pressure on Central American governments to stop their citizens from leaving. Not only is this a violation of national sovereignty, it’s a serious violation of fundamental human rights, both to migrate and to seek refuge,” said Laura Embree-Lowry, CISPES’ program director.

The group traveled to Guatemala to learn more about the police-military unit that will soon be deployed along the country’s southeastern border with El Salvador.  “The Inter-Agency Task Forces are led by military officers and are heavily militarized,” reported Lalo Gonzales, a San Francisco educator. The Task Forces receive training and weapons from the U.S. and coordinate directly with U.S. Armed Forces’ Southern Command, leading to concerns for migrants' well-being, considering the long legacy of serious human rights abuses by U.S.-trained military forces in the region.

CISPES called on the U.S. government to end training and arming Central American police, military and other agents who are detaining migrants and to abandon plans to construct detention centers in Central American territories. “The U.S. needs to stop creating obstacles for people seeking refuge or economic opportunities,” said Sofia Canales, a Los Angeles-based artist and filmmaker. “Instead of criminalizing migrants, the U.S. should be treating them with dignity and assuring their protection along the journey”.

The group recognized efforts by the government of President Salvador Sánchez Cerén to create the conditions for Salvadorans to live a dignified life in their communities of origin if they so choose, for example, by including prevention, rehabilitation and victims’ services in the national security plan, as well as its efforts to revitalize the country’s long-neglected agricultural sector.

Combating the anti-immigrant rhetoric dominating the U.S. political arena and policies such as the Obama administration’s raids against Central Americans, Carlos Villalobos, a student activist at University of California at Santa Cruz had the following message for the Salvadoran people: “We will return to the U.S. to work to defeat the racist and xenophobic policies that seek to construct barriers instead of bridges between our peoples.” 

To arrange an interview, please contact Alexis Stoumbelis ([email protected]) or (202) 521-2510

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Check out this news coverage in El Salvador:

"CISPES denuncia políiticas de EEUU en contra de derechos humanos de migrantes" (Verdad Digital)

"Organization no gobernamental exige respeto para migrantes salvadoreños" (El Blog)

"Estdounidenses piden respeto a derechos de migrantes" (ContraPunto)

"CISPES muestra su apoyo a inmigrantes centroamericanos" (video: Orbita TV)

"Estados Unidos busca frenar migración on Alianza para la Prosperidad" (video: Telenoticias 21)

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