Show of hands: how many of you are aware that Salvadorans have surpassed any other nationality in U.S. deportation proceedings? Probably not that many, but that’s not your fault. No one talks about the fact that people from El Salvador are migrating to the United States in massive amounts, and no one seems to care about what is bringing them to cross the border either.
Let me backtrack to the summer of 2014. Unaccompanied children were crossing the border between the U.S. and Mexico in alarming numbers. Most of the children were girls from El Salvador who were escaping gang violence.
When girls turn 15 in El Salvador, they become a commodity. Many have disappeared, others have died for refusing to be a gang member’s girlfriend, and the rest are forced into prostitution or hide the best they can.
Two main gangs control El Salvador: Mara Salvatrucha and Barrio 18. In the past year, they have declared war on each other and on the police, and have threatened the government. Vice President Óscar Ortiz has not taken those threats lightly and has promised to eradicate gang violence in the next 12 months. There is a certain tension in the air remnant to the 1980s Civil War; the first trigger is about to be pulled.
The migration crisis of 2014 is considered one of the biggest in the U.S., and a new one is brewing. More and more people are escaping the gang–controlled cities in El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras. Border agents detained 21,469 people traveling in family groups in the last three months of 2015. That is almost double the number of families trying to cross the border than they did two summers ago.
Why this is not being covered during an election cycle heavily related to immigration is beyond my comprehension. Everyone seems vexed on fixing the immigration issue from within the border, ignoring that there is an imminent migration crisis right at the foot of the door.
It is only a matter of time before thousands of families knock on the door of the White House asking for refuge. Will they be welcomed as refugees? Or will they be categorized as gang members? Is the U.S. the best place to seek asylum from violence and discrimination? Because at the end of the day, there is little difference between being shot by a police officer who thinks you’re a thug or a gang member for glancing the wrong way.