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El Salvador: News & Updates

El Salvador is the smallest and most densely populated country in Central America. The US-backed civil war, which erupted after the assassination of Archbishop Oscar Romero in 1980, lasted 12 years (1980-92), killing 70,000 people and forcing 20% of the nation’s five million people to seek refuge in the US.

Learn more here.

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Amnesty International declared that El Salvador is undergoing a severe human rights crisis, attributing it to President Nayib Bukele's aggressive anti-gang measures. The report alleges that the approximately 74,000 individuals detained in the crackdown faced "systematic use of torture and other mistreatment." The Americas director for Amnesty International, Ana Piquer, expressed deep concern over the documented deterioration in human rights, linking it to Bukele's repressive security policy and the erosion of the rule of law. The report, based on 83 interviews, highlighted instances of abuse, while former inmates, interviewed by The Associated Press, recounted severe beatings by prison guards. Critics argue that Bukele's broad sweep in detaining suspected gang members has ensnared individuals based on factors like low-wage jobs, limited education, or place of residence. Local rights groups claim 327 people are missing, and at least 190 have died due to the crackdown. Despite the controversial policy's success in reducing the homicide rate and boosting Bukele's popularity, he aims to seek re-election, challenging a constitutional prohibition.

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In this monthly newsletter, we include the fiscal year-end numbers from Customs and Border Patrol. CBP reports 2,475,669 “encounters” of migrants at the US-Mexico border from OCT 2022-SEP 2023. That’s up about 100,000 from last fiscal year. 

Let’s be clear. There is no “border crisis.” But there is a humanitarian crisis at the border.

The numbers don’t justify any increased funding for CBP. Federal agents are not having to chase down tens of thousands of migrants along the river bank or into the desert along the 2,000 mile border. A large portion of the “encountered” migrants (roughly 30,000 per month) have actually turned themselves in voluntarily at ports-of-entry to request political asylum. Presenting themselves at ports of entry (i.e., the “legal” way to cross) are these nationalities in this order: Haiti, Venezuela, Mexico, Cuba, Honduras, Guatemala, Colombia, Ecuador, Nicaragua, Peru.

But the waiting time to schedule an appointment at the border crossing (via the CBP One app) and then waiting for the actual appointment—this is causing tens of thousands of migrants to seek humanitarian assistance on the Mexico side of the border as they sit it out and wait.

As burdensome as the asylum process is, a group of US senators is trying to make it worse. They are threatening to stall any supplemental budget request that Biden is submitting for the war in Ukraine, Israel/Gaza, and the US-Mexico border. They say that won’t approve any Biden request unless it contains new border restrictions, including: more detention, family and child detention, restrictions on humanitarian parole, and banning the right to asylum for migrants who do not present themselves at ports-of-entry (note: this is clearly an illegal provision that violates both domestic and international asylum law.). 

See the Take Action items listed at the bottom of this newsletter. Our advocacy is needed to maintain some modicum of humanity in the nation’s immigration system and to address root causes of migration. 



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News Article

Welcome to the vibrant celebration of human rights at the IRTF's 43rd Annual Commemoration Program, Fiesta De Derechos Humanos! As we gather to honor and reflect on the enduring pursuit of justice, this program book serves as a testament to the diverse voices advocating for human rights around the globe. Join us in commemorating the progress made and acknowledging the challenges that lie ahead in our collective journey towards a more just and equitable world. Through engaging narratives, powerful testimonials, and inspiring perspectives, Fiesta De Derechos Humanos encapsulates the essence of our shared commitment to fostering a world where human rights flourish for all.

To view the entire program book visit:

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On behalf of IRTF’s Rapid Response Network (RRN) members, we wrote six letters this month to heads of state and other high-level officials in Colombia, El Salvador, Honduras, and Mexico, urging their swift action in response to human rights abuses occurring in their countries.  We join with civil society groups in Latin America to: (1) protect people living under threat, (2) demand investigations into human rights crimes, (3) bring human rights criminals to justice.


Volunteers with the Rapid Response Network (RRN)—together with IRTF staff—write letters in response to six urgent human rights cases each month. We send copies of these letters to US ambassadors, embassy human rights officers, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, regional representatives of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, and desk officers at the US State Department. To read the letters, see , or ask us to mail you hard copies.

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You can read this monthly newsletter at

When we hear about the Border Patrol apprehending people along the southern border, we tend to imagine people from Mexico or Central America. But the national origins of migrants are much more varied, and the Border Patrol isn’t exactly “apprehending” as many people because most are turning themselves in at ports-of-entry.

In this month’s newsletter, we report that 100% of Haitians encountered by the Border Patrol affirmatively presented themselves at ports-of-entry, as did 88% of Cubans and 96% of Russians. Although Customs and Border Protection (CBP) is reporting increases in the number of migrants it “encounters,” (an 82% increase from June to July; a 36% increase from July to  August), the numbers of migrants encountered by CBP are still well below the numbers from 2022.

Mexican nationals still top the numbers of encounters by CBP. But current trends indicate that Venezuelans might soon push them out of that number one spot.

To slow the migration of Venezuelans to the US, the Biden administration is taking some new steps. One: Biden signed an agreement with President Maduro to lift some of the economic sanctions on Venezuela and, in reciprocity, Maduro agreed to start accepting deportation flights of Venezuelans. Two: Biden announced in September that it will allow Venezuelans who entered the U.S. on or before July 31 to receive temporary protected status, allowing them to apply for a work visa and deferred deportation for 18 months. Three: Biden plans to spend $10 million in foreign aid to help Panama deport more migrants who do not qualify for asylum protections. Four: In June, the US opened two Safe Mobility Offices in Colombia (as it has in Costa Rica and Guatemala) to consider nationals from Cuba, Haiti, and Venezuela for humanitarian protection or other legal pathways. Five: The US had made deals with Panama and Mexico to begin deporting citizens of Venezuela from their countries.

Since Venezuelans can no longer get visas to fly to places like Mexico, many are been voyaging through the deadly jungles of the Darién Gap that lies between Colombia and Panama. According to the government of Panamá, 334,000 migrants have made the trek since January; 60% have been Venezuelan. The $10 million Biden is offering to Panama (see above) is intended to push US border enforcement south from the US-Mexico border to the Panama-Colombia border.

Migration justice advocates continue to call for addressing structural issues in Latin America that are pushing emigration. Many of those issues are caused by, or exacerbated by, US policies (e.g., militarization of security forces, economic sanctions, mineral extraction, support for non-democratic regimes). Unless people see hope of real change and can envision raising their families in safe environments at home, migration will continue. But the US continues to respond with militarized borders, criminalization of migration, mass incarceration, and deportation.


DONATE: Please consider supporting IRTF’s Migrant Justice work. Click HERE to donate. Thank you.


Welcome to IRTF’s October 2023 newsletter on Migrant Justice and the current situation at the US-Mexico border! After you’ve looked through the articles, we hope you can take a few minutes to see the TAKE ACTION items at the bottom.

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Welcome to IRTF’s September 2023 newsletter on Migrant Justice and the current situation at the US-Mexico border! After you’ve looked through the articles, we hope you can take a few minutes to see the TAKE ACTION items at the bottom.

A recent report by the International Organization for Migration calls the US-Mexico border the “deadliest” in the world. But despite the emotional and economic cost, the harsh terrain, and the dangerous crossings (Darién Gap, border walls, Rio Grande River), migrants still come. Until root causes of migration are seriously addressed, they will come. As numbers of migrants rise, so do the number of removal flights operated by the US. In August, removal flights were up 50% from July, with 73% of them to the Northern Triangle countries of Central America. There were 52 flights to Guatemala, and 51 to Honduras , the highest number on record for that country. 

For those with a vulnerable legal status residing in the US, nothing has improved. TPS expirations for some nationalities were extended, but that only covers 600,000+ migrants from 16 nations.DACA was just ruled unconstitutional (again) by a federal judge (again).  We can expect that one to go to the Supreme Court.

In the absence of any meaningful immigration reform, everything being offered by the Biden Administration and Congress is piecemeal. See the Take Action items listed at the bottom to show your support for addressing the root causes of migration, cutting “alternatives to detention” surveillance programs, and ending family detention.

Read this monthly newsletter in its entirety at


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The increasing number of asylum seekers arriving at the southern U.S. border, driven by violence, poverty, conflict, and climate crisis, is putting immense strain on border communities. Representative Jesús "Chuy" García of Illinois points out that decades of U.S. military interventions, sanctions, and the failed war on drugs have significantly contributed to this migration, especially from South and Central America. He emphasizes the need for a compassionate response and addressing the root causes of migration. Meanwhile, Fernando García, the executive director of the Border Network for Human Rights, highlights the frustrating situation at the border, with repeated crises and inadequate responses. He criticizes the lack of investment in welcoming infrastructure and services for migrants and condemns the political exploitation of the crisis by figures like Governor Greg Abbott of Texas. Both García and García stress the necessity of multilateral cooperation and ending interventionist policies to resolve the ongoing migration challenges.

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A leaked intelligence report from El Salvador's National Civil Police reveals that, despite a year and a half of anti-gang operations, approximately 43,000 individuals allegedly linked to gangs remain at large. The report, dated Sept. 1, 2023, shows that 36% of these individuals, totaling 42,826, are yet to be apprehended, with over 20,000 being active gang members. President Nayib Bukele's "state of exception" declaration, which suspended constitutional rights to capture alleged criminals, led to the arrest of 72,000 suspected gang members but also raised concerns about human rights abuses. The report highlights discrepancies in the government's narrative, indicating that many detainees are not high-ranking gang leaders. Rights groups question the government's tactics and the mass trials planned for those still in custody.