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Since We Last Spoke: Why It's So Dangerous to Send Salvadoran Immigrants Back Home

Updates to stories from the Pacific Standard archive.
three women

In January of 2018, the Trump administration announced the end of a program that allowed nearly 200,000 people from El Salvador to live and work legally in the United States. For many Salvadoran immigrants, there's just as much risk in returning to their home country as there is in choosing to stay.

Temporary protected status was granted to Salvadorans coming to the U.S. after a devastating earthquake in 2001. While El Salvador has recovered from the natural disaster, it has, in recent years, been plagued by gang violence; as Lauren Markham reported for Pacific Standard last year, about 10 percent of the country's population belongs to a gang.

In her story, Markham wrote that, as femicide rates soared, so did the number of young girls joining the gangs as a means of survival—though initiation often involves either a beating or a rape. The 200,000 potential deportees would almost certainly be targeted by Salvadoran gangs, many of which equate living in the U.S. with wealth. Rather than voluntarily face the potential death sentence of deportation, many Salvadorans will likely remain in the U.S., entering the underground economy powered by undocumented immigrants.

A version of this story originally appeared in the May 2018 issue of Pacific Standard. Subscribe now and get eight issues/year or purchase a single copy of the magazine.