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Salvadorans Fear Their Country Is Unprepared for Returnees

Mateo Barrera, 4 originally from El Salvador, whose family members are in the Temporary Protected Status program attend a news conference in Los Angeles, Monday, January 8, 2018.
Mateo Barrera, 4 originally from El Salvador, whose family members are in the Temporary Protected Status program attend a news conference in Los Angeles, Monday, January 8, 2018.
Some Fear El Salvador Is Unprepared for Returnees
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Hugo Castro remembers the shock and suffering he experienced when the United States sent him back to El Salvador. He had not seen his homeland in 30 years.

The 51-year-old man said his country now must prepare to receive almost 200,000 Salvadorans who may also have to return. President Trump’s administration announced Monday it would end legal protection for Salvadorans next year.

The U.S. deported Castro in 2015. He said there was nothing for him in El Salvador.

“The main problem for deportees is that they're made invisible. They're rejected, there's no work. They don't help us,” he said.

The U.S. announcement has created fear. People worry that the new policy will end a major source of income for El Salvador and separate family members.

But there was also some hope that Salvadorans with many years of experience in the U.S. will bring knowledge and investment back home.

Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen said Salvadorans under the temporary protection policy would have to leave the U.S. by September 9, 2019.

The temporary protection program has been offered to citizens from several countries fleeing natural disasters or other problems. The affected Salvadorans were given protection after deadly earthquakes shook their country in 2001.

Thousands more have arrived in the United States in recent years fleeing criminal violence. However, they were not given protection.

Castro went to the United States as a teenager to study at a college in Atlanta, Georgia. During his junior year, his family back home lost nearly everything when the bank seized their coffee operation. He withdrew from college and got a job at a country club and a book store. He also became manager of a Mexican restaurant.

But an interaction with police led to Castro’s detainment and, later, deportation.

His first three months back in El Salvador were the worst, he said. He suffered from depression and didn't want to leave his mother's home. People told him a man his age should not depend on his mother for support, so he started to look for work.

“I went everywhere, to restaurants. I told them I had a lot of experience and that I spoke English, but they rejected me,” he said.

After eight months, Castro finally found work at the Salvadoran Immigrant Institute. The non-profit group recognized the value of Castro's language abilities. It also valued the experience he had gained through the deportation process and it put him to work helping other deportees re-enter Salvadoran life.

Castro said programs like his are very limited and more needs to be done for returnees.

“The government has to get ready, partner with businesses, with all of ociety, the nonprofits and create assistance programs,” he said.

He noted that in 2016, the country received 52,000 deportees from the United States and Mexico. Meanwhile, a government program to give small amounts of money to help deportees open their own businesses has only graduated 140 people, he said.

The biggest worry among Salvadorans is that their nation of 6.2 million people will see a big drop in the amount of money sent home by Salvadorans in the United States. Salvadorans sent more than $4.5 billion from the U.S. in 2016. That money represents about 17 percent of El Salvador's economy.

Luis Membreno is an economic expert in El Salvador. He said people may be more concerned than necessary about the effects of planned deportations. He said Salvadorans under the U.S. protection policy have a firmer base in that country. They are not sending as much money home as Salvadorans who are not in the program.

“I don't think that family remittances are going to fall in the short term,” Membreno said.

He also thinks some Salvadoran families in the U.S. may start sending more money back, something that started when Donald Trump was elected president. So, Membreno said, remittances could increase.

In addition, he said, many of those who returning to El Salvador have skills and money to invest. “All of this could generate a certain dynamism in the economy,” he said.

Cesar Rios, director of the nonprofit group where Castro works, is less hopeful. “Our country is not prepared to receive thousands of Salvadorans,” he said.

Deportees are often targeted by criminal groups in El Salvador. The groups believe the deportees have money. Police also target them, because of a widespread belief that deportees are criminals.

I'm Pete Musto. And I’m Caty Weaver.

The Associated Press reported this story. Caty Weaver adapted this story for Learning English based on AP news reports. Hai Do was the editor.

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Words in This Story

invisible adj. impossible to see​

country club n. a private establishment people pay dues to belong to and use for social events and sports, especially golf and tennis

manager n. someone who is in charge of a business, department, etc.​

depression n. a state of feeling sad​

remittance n. an amount of money that is sent as a payment for something​

generate v. to produce (something) or cause (something) to be produced​

dynamism n. energy and a strong desire to make something happen​