September 27, 2017 at 4:58 pm EDT | by Michael K. Lavers
El Salvador activist: Trump immigration policy is ‘dehumanizing’

ESMULES Executive Director Andrea Ayala in San Salvador, El Salvador, on Sept. 25, 2017. (Washington Blade photo by Michael K. Lavers)

SAN SALVADOR, El Salvador — An LGBT and intersex rights advocate in El Salvador on Monday again criticized President Trump over his administration’s immigration policy.

Andrea Ayala, executive director of Espacio de Mujeres Lesbianas por la Diversidad, a Salvadoran advocacy group known by the acronym ESMULES, noted to the Washington Blade during an interview at a coffee shop in the upscale San Benito neighborhood of the Salvadoran capital of San Salvador that young undocumented immigrants from El Salvador account for the third highest percentage of Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program beneficiaries.

DACA has allowed roughly 800,000 young undocumented immigrants to remain in the U.S. and obtain work permits. El Salvador is among the countries that are included in the Temporary Protected Status program, which allows people from countries that have suffered war and/or national disaster over the last two decades to receive temporary residency permits.

Ayala sat down with the Blade less than a month after the Trump administration announced it will end DACA.

CASA, a Maryland-based immigrant advocacy group, and other organizations and activists have urged the Trump administration not to end TPS.

“There are human dramas,” Ayala told the Blade, referring to DACA and TPS recipients.

Gay Va. couple with DACA deported to El Salvador

Ayala during the interview highlighted the case of a gay Salvadoran couple who she said the U.S. deported, even though they are both DACA recipients.

She did not say when the U.S. deported them, but noted they lived in Bedford, Va., and were legally married in Virginia. Ayala told the Blade the couple is also raising a young child.

She also said one of the men who was deported was brought to the U.S. from El Salvador when he was 6-months-old.

“There culture is completely American,” said Ayala.

Ayala told the Blade the couple cannot work or study in El Salvador because they do not speak Spanish. She also noted the Salvadoran government does not legally recognize their relationship.

“They came to a country that is not prepared to handle two dads with kids,” said Ayala.

The Blade has requested an interview with the couple.

Sessions traveled to El Salvador in July

Violence and discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender remains pervasive in El Salvador, which has one of the world’s highest per capita murder rates. The murders of four trans women in San Luis Talpa, a city that is roughly 45 minutes southeast of San Salvador, in February underscored the risks that trans and lesbian, gay, bisexual and intersex Salvadorans face on a daily basis.

Four transgender women were killed in San Luis Talpa, El Salvador, in February. Gang-related violence has made the area one of the most dangerous parts of the Central American country. (Washington Blade photo by Michael K. Lavers)

Ayala told the Blade that many LGBT and intersex Salvadorans have decided to flee the country. She said smugglers, gang members and drug traffickers frequently target them as they try to travel to Mexico through Guatemala.

“It is better (for them) to risk their lives than to stay in this country,” Ayala told the Blade.

The Blade reported from El Salvador less than two weeks after Trump signed an executive order that spurs construction of a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border in order to curtail the number of undocumented immigrants who enter the U.S. The executive order that the president issued on Jan. 25 also paves the way for cutting federal funding to so-called “sanctuary cities” that protect them.

Ayala told the Blade after Trump issued the executive order that many LGBT and intersex Salvadorans hope to receive asylum in the U.S. in order to live their lives “free of discrimination and hate.”

“This disastrous news leaves their hopes and dreams broken, thus condemning them to a life of despair and hopelessness,” she said.

Ayala on Monday described the Trump administration’s overall immigration policy as “super dehumanizing.”

U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions — who announced the Trump administration’s decision to end DACA at the Justice Department — in July met with his Salvadoran counterpart, Douglas Menéndez, in San Salvador. The meeting coincided with the arrest of more than 700 gang members who are affiliated with MS-13 and other gangs.

The Justice Department announced while Sessions was in El Salvador that a gang member who allegedly killed three LGBT people in the country was in U.S. custody.

A press release said the gang member, who was a member of MS-13’s Peajes Locos Salvatruchas Clique, shot them earlier this year in La Paz Department. The Justice Department declined to tell the Blade whether the gang member was a suspect in the murders of the trans women in San Luis Talpa, but the town is located in La Paz Department.

Ernesto Valle in San Salvador, El Salvador, contributed to this article.

Michael K. Lavers is the international news editor of the Washington Blade. Follow Michael

  • So, people from the country that brought the world MS-13 are upset that we don’t want them here?

  • I don’t get it. If you came to the US illegally, then you committed a crime. Nuff said.

      • LOL…This is the USA where there is freedom of speech!

        If you are an illegal alien and don’t support the 1st amendment you’re welcome to leave!

        BTW, I hope Immigration catches you and deports you! Criminal!!!!

        • Well you have not been able to do it in over 22 years, so I don’t think you will be able to do it now. By the way, even with all the hate speech going on these days, I’m undocumented, and I still have money in my pocket, I still go on vacation a couple of times during the year, I still have a place to live, nobody has kicked me out, and I live in one of the most affluent areas in the country. I have a good life, and I am an “illegal”. And guess what? I am not leaving yet, I will leave this place when I want, not when you say so. Just deal with it!

          • Thanks for this post. It’s comments like this that enrage US citizens enough to vote for people like Trump! Keep up the good work!

            BTW – not to dampen your festivities, but the current sitting US president was primarily elected because of his promises to build a wall to keep out illegals and start deporting as many as possible.

            Also, the Justice Dept. has started lobbying set asides to largely expand and further develop prison facilities to process and incarcerate illegals before deportation.

            I certainly don’t have clairvoyance to tell the future, but I would say you may want to stop drawing attention to yourself because the days of the US Illegal Alien bonanza seem to be coming to an end very quickly.

            You may wind up back in whatever hell-hole you came from just like that! Adios!

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