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.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.