El Salvador and the U.S.

6.3 million people live in El Salvador. The Salvadoran diaspora as of 2016 was 2.2 million, of which 1.4 million lived in the U.S., not including children born here. It is the largest Central American group in the U.S. Starting with a 94,000 base in 1980, on average about 40,000 Salvadoreans have entered the U.S. annually.

As of 2010, 30% of Salvadoreans in the U.S. were American citizens. 24% spoke English “very well.” Of those 25 years or older, 54% did not complete high school. Roughly 500,000 were undocumented.

A civil war begun in the 1970s displaced one million internally and to neighboring countries. The United States heavily supported the military in part to eliminate the risk of communism. Peace accords formally ended the civil war in 1992. Two earthquakes occurred in 2001. Salvadorean waves in emigration to the U.S., under “temporary protected status,” happened in the 1990s and after the earthquakes.

The Trump administration has said it will remove this status from about 200,000 persons in the U.S. Further, the Justice Department under the direction of Attorney General Jeff Sessions determined that domestic and gang violence no longer constitute grounds for asylum

The 1992 Peace Accords did not improve life for most Salvadorans. The quarter-century since has seen worsening living conditions, widening inequality, and an economy artificially sustained by the remittances that Salvadorans abroad, mostly in the United States, send regularly to their families. These remittances—which totaled US $5 billion in 2017, roughly one-fifth of the country’s gross domestic product, according to World Bank data—help keep the Salvadoran economy afloat.

The civil war left behind a militarized society with most of its population unable to earn enough to survive, creating fertile recruitment ground for drug cartels and various organized-crime groups. Furthermore, deportations of Salvadorans from the United States, which started in the 1980s and accelerated in the 1990s, significantly exacerbated violent trends in the country. Deportees included young Salvadorans who had formed gangs in the United States—their way of navigating life in inhospitable neighborhoods—contributing to a perfect storm that allowed these activities to proliferate back in El Salvador.

it is likely that in the absence of major changes in the country, Salvadorans will continue to migrate.

From the Migration Policy Institute here.

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