The Human Rights Watch has identified 138 Salvadorans who were killed and another 70 who faced abuse after deportation

Over the last seven years hundreds of Salvadoran migrants and asylum seekers have been killed or abused after they were deported from the United States, according to a report this week by Human Rights Watch.

The organization identified 138 deported Salvadorans who were killed between 2013 and 2019 and another 70 cases in this time period where “deportees were subjected to sexual violence, torture, and other harm, usually at the hands of gangs, or who went missing following their return.”

The group’s main finding was that there was a “clear link between the killing or harm to the deportee upon return and the reasons they had fled El Salvador in the first place.”

Salvadoran migrants
Migrants in January as they head to the United States
| Credit: Alex Pena/Anadolu Agency via Getty

One case example in the report involved a woman in her 20s who tried seeking asylum in 2014 while running away from the father of her then 4-year-old daughter. She was deported that same year and told Human Rights Watch that when she returned, the man proceeded to repeatedly rape her — threatening her if she attempted to report the abuse.

In another case, a 17-year-old boy who fled gang recruitment in 2010 was deported back to El Salvador in 2017 when he was 23. Four months later, he was killed by members of the MS-13 gang, his mother told Human Rights Watch.

“U.S. authorities knew or should have known they were going to return these people to harm,” Alison Leal Parker, a managing director of the Human Rights Watch’s U.S. program, told The Washington Post. “Therefore they should not have done it.”

Salvadoran migrants
Salvadoran migrants seeking asylum in 2016

Parker told the Post that a majority of the Salvadorans — 109 — were sent home during the Obama administration. However, she said that President Donald Trump‘s immigration policies “will only worsen” the situation.

Trump campaigned on reducing both legal and illegal immigration.

“As asylum and immigration policies tighten in the United States and dire security problems continue in El Salvador, the US is repeatedly violating its obligations to protect Salvadorans from return to serious risk of harm,” the Human Rights Watch report states.

Between 2014 and 2018, the U.S. granted asylum to 18.2 percents of its Salvadoran applicants — the lowest rate in the region. The U.S. also deported a total of 111,000 Salvadorans in that same time period.

Of the 138 known deaths — which have been investigated through press accounts, court files and interviews with community members and relatives — a majority are said to have been killed within one year of returning from the U.S.

However, Human Rights Watch believes that the actual number of those killed is much higher.

“There is no official tally, however, and our research suggests that the number of those killed is likely greater,” they write.