As U.S. Begins Deportations, Central America Prepares For Influx
KELLY MCEVERS, HOST:
Being deported from the U.S. is just the next chapter in the story for Central American migrants. What happens to them when they get back home? To find out, we called Natalia del Cid. She's a researcher of migration studies and an advocate for migrants' rights. She's in San Salvador, the capital of El Salvador. And I asked her what happens when deportees arrive at the international airport there.
NATALIA DEL CID: So when they get to the airport, the deportees are interviewed. It takes about two to three hours, and it's done by the Salvadoran government. If they have relatives picking them up at the airport, well, they are allowed to travel with them after they finish this process. And if not, the Salvadoran government would keep them a ride from the airport to the capital, San Salvador.
MCEVERS: And is the government adequately prepared to receive them?
DEL CID: In the airport, the place is really small so it gets crowded. The good thing is that they at least have air-conditioning because the weather is really warm. But they only provide them for basic needs at the moment. There's no, like, long-term strategy yet.
MCEVERS: You say that the government in El Salvador has no long-term plan for resettling these people. And we're talking about tens of thousands of people. Who does have a plan? And if there is one, what is it?
DEL CID: Well, the government is trying to come up with a plan. They started last year trying to draft a national policy of migration that includes return, and they even invited people to give their opinions about it. So right now it's a long process. They are trying to deal with international organizations and getting a lot of help in drafting a policy, but that it's going to be just a policy. So I'm kind of worried that it's going to stay on paper because it's going to need a lot of funding, especially if they want to address the long-term.
MCEVERS: And is there anybody else working on it?
DEL CID: There are NGOs.
MCEVERS: Nongovernmental organizations, yeah.
DEL CID: With the children, only the nuns - a group of, like, five nuns - are the ones that are basically dealing with the children. Last year, there were many NGOs and international organizations because there was a lot of funding...
DEL CID: ...Due to the high hyping media attention. And that's an NGO that I know of, I used to work there. I got to organize a group of deportees, and we tried to channel the deportees so that they could have access to credit with a low interest and to set up their own businesses so that they could draw upon on their work experience in the U.S. and invest that here in El Salvador. Unfortunately though, in June, one of our founding members was killed due to the high insecurity of this country.
MCEVERS: Wow. I mean, you have been there when deportees returned to El Salvador many times. What do you say to people when they first come back to their country?
DEL CID: Well, I try to be upbeat and I try to thank them for having the courage to come back, just telling them that there are options here, that we are trying to organize deportees to get (unintelligible) in the agenda, in the national agenda. So I want them to know that they're not alone.
MCEVERS: Right. Do they believe you?
DEL CID: Well, it's - I think I'm the only person that tells them that so I think it's a relief at least to know that there is something to go to.
MCEVERS: That's Natalia del Cid. She is a researcher of migration studies and an advocate for migrants' rights in El Salvador. Thank you so much for your time today.
DEL CID: Thank you so much. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.