The Salvadoran challenge

The increase in the number of Salvadorans deported has put great pressure on the economy and public security of that Central American nation.

The number of people who were forced to return in 2013 is estimated at close to 34,126 repatriations, a record. This is due in great part to American authorities putting an emphasis on deportations and having the budget for them.

Out of this total, an estimated 1,600 of deportees were minors, whether detained in the U.S. or in Mexico on their way north—also an unusually elevated number of children and teens. This is happening because of what the General Directorate of Migration and Immigration of El Salvador defined as a “culture of silence” regarding the high number of minors who are sent alone overseas, in many cases to reunite with their parents in the U.S. or to flee the growing public insecurity.

The problem is what to do with those returning. Estimates show that almost 25% of those being repatriated have criminal backgrounds. In the long term, this will worsen the big problems that the government is already having with violence related to the maras or gangs.

On the other hand, the work prospects for the rest of the deportees are not good either. The Salvadoran economy is not recovering, because of contracting exports and decreasing remittances. Investment is also insufficient to generate enough jobs for recent arrivals.

The TPS that the U.S. grants to almost a quarter million Salvadorans does temporarily relieve part of the labor pressure that could fall on El Salvador’s government. But the solution is not in Washington. The long-term solution to the problems of violence and lack of jobs is in El Salvador.