Forcible Deportations after We Fund Militias that Chant “Be a Patriot, Kill a Priest”
As the Senate debates the futures of DACA recipients, the President has been busy unraveling our immigration system. When he proclaimed how we ought to have immigrants from Norway and fewer from the global south, he trumpeted his racism.
His other immigration policies often terrorize immigrants.and their families. Last week, Trump rescinded a Temporary Protected Status for 250,000 Salvadorans, who were forced to flee a civil war that lasted nearly two decades and a massive earthquake, as well. While many opposed this policy change as insensitive and unnecessary, most of the criticism has overlooked our undeniable role in destabilizing El Salvador.
For centuries in El Salvador, a small elite group controlled most of the resources and exploited the citizenry. When an uprising for better economic justice and democracy arose, led by a group called the FMLN, the Salvadoran elite used billions of dollars from the US to strengthen its paramilitary death squads, which set the stage for the rise of the brutal right-wing leader, Roberto D’Aubuisson
The country’s opposition, composed of teachers, peasants, doctors, students, labor unions, and priests, tried to protest and demand their rights. Archbishop Romero, one especially outspoken member of the clergy, openly confronted El Salvador’s army for their brutal death squads. In one speech, he begged D’Aubuisson, “In the name of God, in the name of this suffering people whose laments rise to heavens, each day more tumultuous, I ask you, I beg you, I order you — stop the repression!”
With the implicit consent of the United States, Gen. Roberto D’Aubuisson publicly assassinated Archbishop Romero. The militias, mostly armed and trained by America, plastered the slogan “Be a Patriot — Kill a Priest” as they roamed the country, torturing and killing anyone suspected of being a dissident.
U.S. backed paramilitary group mass-arresting nuns at a cathedral
Shortly thereafter, the country was plunged into a civil war between the leftist factions and the right wing government and paramilitary groups. According to a U.N. report, US backed paramilitary groups were responsible for 85% of the deaths in the decade-long civil war. Many were also displaced from their ancestral homes. Others were forced to flee under the threat of murder. In light of this humanitarian crisis, President Clinton first gave a temporary protection order for immigrants from El Salvador. Hundreds of thousands were forced to flee the country. Many of these children became the beneficiaries of DACA.
Later, when an earthquake further devastated the country, President George W. Bush granted another Temporary Protection Status. In El Salvador, the ravage from years of war wrecked the economy. Many of these paramilitary groups, with years of US training, stocked with US weapons, changed their names and joined drug gangs which took root after the civil war. The death squads are back again, but they serve a different purpose. Many more had to flee with their children to save their lives.
When President Trump rescinded the TPS, he broke America’s promise to these 250,000 Salvadorans. He will be sentencing many of them to serious, life-threatening risk and hardship. Since we have been responsible for so much of El Salvador’s turmoil, we should permit its citizens to remain here.
El Salvador is hardly alone in falling victim to U.S. foreign policy in central and south America. The U.S funded other paramilitary groups in Nicaragua, Honduras, while overthrowing democratically elected governments in Argentina, Chile, Peru and Bolivia. In light of this context there is only one path forward that preserves our humanity.
We are neither more safe, nor more economically viable, through forced deportations. To honor our traditions and to honor the statue of Liberty — we must not let justice and dignity be silenced by fear and hatred.
E Pluribus Unum — Out of Many, We Are One.
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