Maria Inés Taracena
Arizona-México border fence in Nogales.
The Peace Corps announced Monday that it is temporarily suspending any programs in El Salvador because the Central American country is too dangerous, according to a write-up by the Huffington Post.
In fact, El Salvador is well on its way to become the homicide capital of the world.
Still, the Obama administration plans to continue deporting women, youth and children native to the region.
The home raids by Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents—which are part of the Department of Homeland Security's efforts to deport hundreds of undocumented immigrants from Central America, who were denied asylum in the country and were issued removal orders—began the first weekend of 2016. Thus far, at least 121 asylum-seekers
from Guatemala, El Salvador and Honduras have been apprehended. The federal government is focusing on families who came to the U.S. starting in 2014, when a massive surge of migrants from Central America, fleeing gang violence and extreme poverty, made their way to American soil.
It's not just the Peace Corps that considers El Salvador to be dangerous. The State Department reissued a warning in June for Americans considering traveling there, citing the rate of violent crimes in the country. According to the State Department, 34 Americans have been murdered in the country since January 2010, including a 9-year-old, and only six of their cases resulted in convictions. Although "there is no information to suggest that U.S. citizens are specifically targeted by criminals," the department warns, "crime and violence are serious problems throughout the country."
Salvadorans are in the greatest danger, which many experts say is the primary reason people, especially mothers and children, are fleeing for other countries. Since October, border agents have apprehended more than 5,000 Salvadoran children traveling without their parents and more than 7,200 Salvadoran families.
El Salvador’s murder rate increased last year to about 104 per 100,000 residents, which is alarmingly greater than the homicide rate during the country's vicious civil war from 1980 to '92, the HuffPost
says. The country is going neck-in-neck with neighboring Honduras for the title of the most dangerous country at least in the Western Hemisphere.
The Peace Corps suspended its Honduras program in 2012 for safety reasons. Violence there has dropped sharply over the last two years, but the country's homicide rate of 61 per 100,000, according to preliminary figures reported last month in the local press, still makes it one of the world’s most violent. The State Department issued a travel warning for Honduras, similar to the one issued for El Salvador, in October.
The administration allows people from El Salvador to apply for temporary protected status, but only if they have been in the U.S. since at least March 2001. Many House Democrats and activists are calling on the administration to extend this status to Central Americans who entered the country more recently. Hondurans can apply for temporary protected status if they have been in the U.S. since January 1999.
The feds are facing harsh criticism over the mass deportations, with immigration rights advocates, and other critics, calling them inhumane and shameful.
A couple of days ago, Democratic presidential hopeful Hillary Clinton urged DHS
to stop the removals. I guess she changed her mind, because two years ago, when more than 60,000 Central American unaccompanied minors crossed into the U.S., she called for them to be sent back to their countries.