Pablo Alvarado had just graduated from college in El Salvador when he and his teenage brother, who had been receiving death threats, left their home country to come to the United States.
I left on my last day of college before graduation and dedicated myself to guaranteeing the safety of my brother, still a teen not much older than the unaccompanied minors currently arriving en masse at the U.S.-Mexico border, Alvarado, who heads the National Day Laborer Organizing Network, wrote in a recent article for CNN.
Alvarado and his brother rode on top of a Mexican freight train, often referred to as La Bestia, that many migrants from Central America use to get to the U.S. southern border. Every year, many die falling off the train while others face the constant threat of robbery, kidnapping and rape.
Now, decades after making the treacherous journey to the U.S. with his brother, Alvarado will return to El Salvador as a U.S. citizen. Starting on Sunday, he will lead a group of immigration advocates and faith leaders as they explore firsthand the circumstances that are driving many unaccompanied minors and adults with children to leave El Salvador for the U.S.
The group will spend a week there, holding public forums to discuss the results of a new study conducted by the University of Central America in partnership with NDLON. The study called Deported Dreams is based on interviews with Salvadorans who were deported from the U.S.
In addition, the group will meet with advocates from El Salvador, government officials and security forces to seed transnational organizing opportunities.
We are going to uncover the truth of whats happening in Central America without the political spin, Alvarado said in a statement. To advocate effectively, we have to be grounded in reality and that is what we are going to witness in El Salvador.
U.S. Customs and Border Protection finds that between Oct. 1 and June 30, a total of 57,525 unaccompanied minors were apprehended at the southern border. Of those, a total of 13,301 came from El Salvador.
Joining Alvarado on the trip are several people who, like him, left El Salvador in search of a better life in the U.S. For them, according to NDLON, the trip represents a homecoming to a place they left in civil war. Also going on the trip are immigration advocates and faith leaders from Georgia, New York, California, Massachusetts and Washington, D.C.
This week, while the advocates and faith leaders are in El Salvador, President Barack Obama and Vice President Joe Biden will hold a meeting at the White House with President Otto Perez Molina of Guatemala, President Juan Orlando Hernandez of Honduras, and President Salvador Sanchez Ceren of El Salvador. The meeting is scheduled for July 25.
[They] will discuss how to reinforce our ongoing collaboration to stem the flow of undocumented migrants from Central America to Mexico and the United States, White House press secretary Josh Earnest said in a statement.
The leaders will also talk about how the U.S. and Central American governments are cooperating to promote safe, legal, and orderly migration between the countries. In addition, Earnest stated the leaders will also discuss how they can work together to foster development, economic growth, and security in the region and address the factors that are causing Central American citizens to undertake the dangerous journey to the United States.