The governments of El Salvador and Guatemala are warning Central American immigrants living in the United States to use their peepholes and not open their doors to unknown solicitors or even friendly looking government agents without a warrant.
“Don’t be fooled. Don’t open the door to unknown people who say they are looking for someone else. Immigration agents have to show an order signed by a judge to enter your house. If they don’t have one, you’re not obliged to open your door,” warns a five-point communique published by the Guatemalan Foreign Ministry. “You have rights that must be respected. If this is an administrative procedure by the U.S. government, immigration agents have the obligation to respect your fundamental rights and treat you and your family with respect, especially when children are involved.”
The tips are to help prepare Guatemalans living in the United States for immigration raids on hundreds of undocumented Central Americans who have outstanding deportation orders. The New Year roundup, which started last Saturday, was first reported by the Washington Post on Dec. 23, citing unnamed government sources in Homeland Security. The report says the U.S. government is planning to target hundreds of the 100,000-plus undocumented immigrant families who have entered the United States since the beginning of 2014 and exhausted all their options to remain in the country legally.
A possible wave of mass deportation has fragile Central American governments on edge.
El Salvador’s government has tweeted a series of tips warning its 2-million plus expatriates living in the United States to be careful before opening their front door to strangers.
“[U.S.] Immigration agents have to show a court order signed by a judge to enter your house. If they don’t have one, you are not obliged to open the door,” reads a statement tweeted Sunday afternoon by the presidency of El Salvador.
El Salvador, which last year reached the gruesome milestone of 100 murders per 100,000 inhabitants, making it as the most homicidal country in Central America, is experiencing a dramatic uptick in the number of unaccompanied children fleeing to the United States to escape violence back home.
In just October and November alone, 3,192 unaccompanied Salvadoran children were picked up by U.S. border patrol agents along the border. That suggests that the rate of children emigrating from El Salvador has more than doubled since the previous fiscal year, when 9,389 undocumented Salvadoran children were detained, according to ICE.
The number of Salvadorans fleeing as entire family units has nearly tripled, with 4,450 family members detained along the U.S. border in October and November of 2015, according to the most recent data available. Salvadorans are now being detained on the U.S. border in greater numbers than emigrants from Guatemala, Honduras or Mexico— three countries with much larger populations than El Salvador.
With the threat of increased immigration raids looming, the Salvadoran government wants to lend its people a measure of security that it failed to offer back home.
The four tips the Salvadoran government:
- Immigration agents cannot enter your home without a judge’s order. You do not have to open your door to anyone who doesn’t have a warrant.
- If you get detained, remain calm. If you have immigration papers, show them. If not, call your lawyer and the consulate.
- Immigration agents must respect your rights, and treat you and your family with dignity.
- The Salvadoran consular offices are standing by the help. Call the consulate in Atlanta for information. 678-557-0482.
The Salvadoran government, which has tried to reactive an old solidarity hashtag #solidaridadSV, has also tweeted out all the phone numbers of its consulates in the U.S., and says operators are standing by.
The Honduran government, meanwhile, says it has no official information about any impending wave of mass deportation, but is ready to respond to any situation
“The only official information that we have from the American government is that they are going to return only those Hondurans who have been given a final deportation order after concluding all legal procedures available to them in the USA,” reads a statement from Honduras’ Foreign Ministry.
The Honduran government, the U.S.’ closest ally in the northern triangle, went on to pat itself on the back for reducing the number of undocumented kids emigrating to the United States.
“We great effort, the government has succeeded in reducing by 70% the emigration of unaccompanied children and adolescents, being the only country in the northern triangle of Central America to reduce immigration in 2015,” the government said.
According to the ICE data, 5,409 unaccompanied Honduran minors were detained at the border in FY2015, down from 18,244 the year before.
But the trend might not hold in the region’s second-most violent nation. Immigration numbers from October and November of 2015 suggest Honduras is seeing a substantial uptick in the number of families emigrating to the U.S.