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Could the U.S. be Blamed for Gang Violence in El Salvador?

CREDIT: SEEKER STORIES / YOUTUBE

“It was Easier During the War.”

30 murders a day. Killers as young as 12. 80 percent of homicides gang-related. The violence in El Salvador is almost unfathomable…and in part, blamed on the U.S.

During the 12-year long civil war in the 1980s and early 90s, many Salvadorans emigrated to the U.S. and joined either La Mara Salvatrucha (MS 13) or Barrio 18, both Los Angeles-based gangs. When the U.S. stepped in and started deporting gang members to their home country, all hell broke lose back in El Salvador.

READ: Rape, Murder, Kidnapping: The Reality of Teenage Girls in El Salvador

Photojournalist, Patrick Tombola, captured the deplorable state of the country during a recent. While documenting the lives of Salvadorans trapped in this violence, he heard something shocking: “One thing that people keep repeating is that it was easier during the war. At least, you knew who your real enemies were,” he said. “Today, anyone can be grabbing a gun and shoot at you without repercussions.”

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The Victims From That Heartbreaking Photo Of A Father And Daughter Who Drowned Crossing Into The US Have Been Laid To Rest

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The Victims From That Heartbreaking Photo Of A Father And Daughter Who Drowned Crossing Into The US Have Been Laid To Rest

DemocracyNow / Twitter

Photographs of Valeria, lying face down in the water with her little arm wrapped around the neck of her father, Oscar Alberto Martínez, broke hearts around the world and underscored the dangers that migrants undertake in trying to reach the US.

Now, their bodies have been laid to rest back in El Salvador.

Credit: @NBC10Boston / Twitter

A man and his young daughter who drowned trying to cross into Texas were laid to their final rest Monday, a week after a heartbreaking image of their bodies floating in the Rio Grande circled the globe.

About 200 relatives and friends followed a hearse bearing the bodies of Óscar Martínez and his 23-month-old daughter Valeria inside La Bermeja municipal cemetery in southern San Salvador. The ceremony was private, and journalists were not allowed access.

Many wore black and wept. They carried flowers and green palms, and some held signs bearing the logo of the Alianza soccer team favored by Óscar Martínez, who belonged to a group that supports the club. “For those who cheer you on from heaven,” one read.

Mourners stood with the family in their pain and time of need.

“I knew them. They are good people, and I can’t believe they died this way,” said Berta Padilla, who arrived earlier along with about 30 others on a bus from Altavista, the working-class city the Martínezes called home before they left in early April, headed for the United States. “We came from Altavista to be with Óscar’s family,” Padilla added in an interview with TIME. “We are with them in their pain.”

After the burial, relatives stayed behind at the gravesite to say a last goodbye, said family friend Reyna Moran. “This is very painful, most of all because of the baby. … They went in search of a better future, but everything came to an end in the river,” Moran said.

A collection of floral arrangements adorned the grave, including one from El Salvador’s president and first lady. Interior Minister Mario Durán was among those who attended.

The father and his daughter have been buried in a special section of the cemetery.

A municipal police officer said their graves were in a section of the cemetery named after Saint Óscar Romero, the San Salvador archbishop who devoted himself to helping the poor and was assassinated in 1980. Romero, who was canonized last year, is buried in the crypt of the city’s cathedral.

Before their heartbreaking deaths, the family had plans to make a new life for their daughter in the US.

Credit: @democracynow / Twitter

Martínez, 25, and his wife, Tania Vanessa Ávalos, 21, had been living with his mother and apparently felt that their salaries working at a pizza parlor and as a restaurant cashier would never be enough to purchase a modest home in their suburb of San Salvador.

That dream to save money for a home led the family to set out for the United States, according to Martínez’s mother, Rosa Ramírez.

The neighborhood they left behind in El Salvador is a humble bedroom community where most people live in low-rise, two-bedroom homes with a combination kitchen-living room-dining room, worth about $10,000-$15,000 each.

Meanwhile, El Salvador’s president has taken responsibility for the deaths.

Credit: @thehill / Twitter

The president of El Salvador said his country was to blame for the deaths of a Salvadoran man and his daughter who drowned last week while trying to cross the Rio Grande into the United States, The New York Times reports.

“People don’t flee their homes because they want to,” President Nayib Bukele said Sunday during a news conference. “They flee their homes because they feel they have to.”

“We can blame any other country, but what about our blame? What country did they flee? Did they flee the United States?” Bukele said. “They fled El Salvador.”

READ: This Cartoonist’s Right To Free Speech Is Under Threat As He Loses His Job For A Cartoon About Trump’s Failed Immigration Policies

This Salvadoran Father Of Two Was Deported Early In The Trump Administration And Has Been Allowed Back To The US

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This Salvadoran Father Of Two Was Deported Early In The Trump Administration And Has Been Allowed Back To The US

AP Photo/Nomaan Merchant

Recently, we have been hearing of story after story of families ripped apart by inhumane immigration policies.

And for one Houston father, that’s exactly what happened. He was detained and deported to his native El Salvador after living in the US most of his life. But thankfully, this story has a happy ending as he’s now been allowed to return to the US to live with his family.

A Houston father of two American born kids was deported to El Salvador but now he’s back in the US with his family.

Credit: @AP / Twitter

A 33-year-old father of two American-born children was allowed to return to the US on Monday, two years after being deported to El Salvador during the first months of the Trump administration.

Jose Escobar was welcomed at Houston Intercontinental Airport by a group of supporters. He was accompanied by his wife, Rose, and their two children, Walter and Carmen, who had flown to El Salvador in June to visit him.

They were all together in El Salvador when they got word that US immigration authorities had approved waivers that would let him return to the US.

Watch the emotional moment here:

The Houston-based advocacy group FIEL contacted local attorney Raed González, who took up Escobar’s case. He filed paperwork with U.S. Immigration and Citizenship Services requesting waivers that would allow Escobar to return to the U.S., citing the hardship his deportation had placed on Rose.

Those waivers were granted last month.

He had been forced to help his wife parent their children via Facebook.

Credit: @Realtor336502 / Twitter

He had video calls with his family at night, but he was often scared and worried about leaving the family home, as the gangs roaming the streets were known to target people who had come back from America and once held him up. He would watch the video from his home’s security cameras remotely.

His children, meanwhile, struggled with the pain of losing their father. And with Jose having trouble making money in El Salvador, Rose Escobar supported the family on her own as a hospital receptionist and relied on savings that were quickly dwindling.

Escobar originally came to the US as a teenager with Temporary Protected Status after the 2001 El Salvador earthquake.

Credit: TemblorNet / Flickr

El Salvador suffered a devastating earthquake on January 13, 2001, and experienced two more earthquakes on February 13 and 17, 2001.

In the aftermath, to help support refugees fleeing the country, the US granted Temporary Protected Status to El Salvador. This meant they could come to the US without the risk of deportation.

Then, under the Obama administration, he was arrested and detained for several months.

After an intense lobbying campaign, the local field office director for U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement released Escobar in January 2012 “so he could get his affairs in order,” the agency said last year.

In February 2017, shortly after Trump took office and widened the priorities for detaining and deporting immigrants without authorization, Escobar was arrested during what was supposed to be a routine ICE check-in.

The next month, he was deported to El Salvador. He called his wife from the San Salvador airport to tell her what had happened.

Escobar moved to a town that’s about three hours from San Salvador, living with relatives and working intermittently as a laborer.

But now the family is living together reunited in their home of Houston.

Credit: @ChronFalkenberg / Twitter

On Monday, Escobar arrived with this lawyer who flew with him from El Salvador because he said he didn’t want anything at the last minute to go wrong. Escobar’s wife and children, his lawyer and other supporters held balloons shaped like butterflies, a symbol, they said, of migration.

Rose Escobar told other families with deported relatives to use their voice and urged lawmakers to listen.

“We need you to be the voices for other Escobars, children who need their daddy, children who need their mommy,” she told the Houston Chronicle.

As the weeks turned into months, then years, she said friends and strangers gently urged her to think of moving on. To forget.

She added: “People kept saying, ‘It’s taking so long, you should just give up,’” she said. “I would always say, ‘He’s coming home. Soon, in God’s time.’”

READ: He Has Been Deported Twice And Is Now Fighting His Third Deportation To Stay With His Sick Child

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