Dear Brent:

Thank you so much for your question on Twitter, I have decided to answer on my blog to allow for more space for response.

I always like to organize the discussion on immigration on four different “moments” or issues: 1) the root causes of immigration and the decision to leave your country, 2) the journey and immigration act itself, with its hardships crossing Mexican territory and the US/European borders, 3) What happens when you reach your “destination” whether you manage to find a job, a home or local support to start a new life, or whether you are detained, sent to immigration court or start a deportation process, and finally: 4) What happens if you get deported back to your home country, job market post deportation, etc…

Each of these moments deserves serious research and thought, to produce public policies that address this very complex issue.

When we talk about immigration, we assume there is a problem to solve.  In my opinion, there is nothing to solve about a natural and historic behavior of human beings.  But, to “solve” immigration we start with the understanding that the cause or motivation for someone to leave their home and seek a better future in a foreign land is complex and multidimensional. Lack of economic opportunities, discrimination based on sexual preferences, gender violence of any kind, domestic violence, and gang violence are among the many factors that push people to leave El Salvador. I doubt there is a single issue motivating people to leave their country, but rather an accumulation of factors in each personal case.

To address these problems, it is also complex and a must be addressed with a long-term plan (no “populist magic wand” or single policy will be sufficient).  We must begin to address the lack of opportunities by creating the atmosphere for job creation and where Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) flows without government harassment. Unfortunately, a hostile environment for business and entrepreneurs force people to look for these opportunities somewhere else, case in point: El Salvador right now.

The troubling indicators of gang violence and homicides must be addressed with a responsible and humane approach.  We have seen examples of policy proposals on both extremes: “peace and love approach” or “mano dura” hard line policies… The ever-growing territorial control of gangs and organized crime make it almost impossible for “civilian” citizens to live a normal life.

Unfortunately, the current government in El Salvador has failed to address the lack of opportunities and insecurity. In a pre-election year, we must push candidates to offer concrete solutions to these issues and address immigration as a national interest.  ARENA (my political party) has proposed a series of steps to implement and address insecurity.  A DNA bank for sex offenders, investment in communities and at-risk-neighborhoods, a strict control of prisions (where most gang leaders still direct operations and communications from) and reforms of our criminal laws. Some of these have been taken up by the current government, unfortunately, a gang truce in the last couple of years in the previous FMLN government made criminal structures much stronger and difficult to understand without the full transparency and debate that such measures demand.

Police-Community relations in El Salvador have been going through a rough period with an increased distrust in Civilian National Police (PNC).  Some reports have indicated abuse on behalf of Police officers targeting young citizens and even reports of extreme violence (including murders) of young “suspected” or actual gang members. (“the jury is out on this one”, I don’t mean to make a judgment)

One of the necessary proposals to debate is to implement an international watchdog system similar to “CICIG” in Guatemala (UN sponsored) or MACCICH in Honduras (OAS sponsored) to strengthen police investigations, to support the Attorney General´s office, and to dismantle organized crime from a non-biased and international approach.  Our proposal to implement an International Committee to Combat Crime and Impunity in El Salvador (or CICIES) needs to gain support from the current Salvadoran government in order for the UN, or the OAS, to be allowed to help solve this problem.

I hope I answered some of your concerns in this brief post.  Feel free to ask follow-up questions or bring up comments or suggestions.

Greetings, Fernando…