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Thu Feb 23, 2017, 05:34 PM

How Trump's Deportation Crackdown Could Sink El Salvador

Ioan Grillo / San Salvador
12:52 PM Central

Outside El Salvador’s international airport, families gather by a guard post to see their loved ones who have been deported by plane from the United States. Wearing a straw hat in the blazing sun, Elsa Canales, a 58-year-old woman from a fishing village on Salvador’s Pacific coast, waits for her son Marvin Sorto Canales who has been away almost two decades working without papers in San Antonio, Texas. Sorto, 36, was arrested in December after failing to turn up to an immigration court appearance several years earlier. His deportation order rapidly came through this month, Canales says.

“I am glad to be seeing him of course. But I am also sad because he is leaving his children in the United States,” she says. “And I worry about how he will survive here, and how our family will survive.”

Sorto worked as a machine operator on construction sites in San Antonio and would send home $150 to $200 a month to help his family back home, she says. The money kept afloat a household of eight people, including his parents, siblings and nephews, supplementing the money they make from fishing. Without his remittances, they will struggle to afford medicines, schoolbooks and adequate food.

The family’s anxiety is shared by millions in this small Central American nation of coffee growers and sugar plantations. About 1.2 million people who were born in El Salvador live in the United States and, last year, they sent home $4.6 billion - equivalent to 17% of the country’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP), one of the highest remittance rates in the world. In Mexico, by comparison, remittances are worth less than 3 percent of GDP. Salvadorean remittances often go to the poorest families here, clothing children, buying vital medicines, helping old people who have no pension.


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