At The U.S. Border, Cubans Are Welcomed, Salvadorans Deported
DAVID GREENE, HOST:
Now the culture NPR's Carrie Kahn covers is Central America. And in the small country of El Salvador, she's watched people fleeing gang violence, trying to reach the United States. Then recently, El Salvador greeted a group of Cuban migrants also en route to the U.S. Carrie sent us this postcard telling us how these two groups get very different receptions at the U.S. border.
CARRIE KAHN, BYLINE: I posted a political cartoon I saw here this week on my Facebook page. It showed a drawing of a bus full of cheering Cubans heading to the U.S. Next to it was a big rig also heading north. However, it was crammed with Salvadorans tucked under the chassis in hidden wheel wells. This is the U.S.'s current immigration situation. Since the 1960s, any Cuban who arrives on U.S. soil immediately receives political asylum. Central American migrants don't. That's despite a growing number pleading for refuge in the U.S. from the gang violence that has put their countries at the top of the list of world's most dangerous nations. This past week, I met 32-year-old Orlando Priede as he waited on a first-class bus in El Salvador bound for the U.S. The industrial engineer fled communist Cuba last October. Fearful that warmer relations between Cuba and the U.S. would end the generous immigration policy for his countrymen, Priede was following a well-worn trail from Ecuador through Central America and Mexico all the way to the Texas border. Officials wouldn't let us talk in person, so we chatted by cell phone, he in the bus's window seat, me about 100 feet away. We smiled at each other and waved. He told me how grateful he was to soon see his family in the U.S. A few days later here, I met a 19-year-old Salvadoran. He asked me not to give his name for his protection. He was recently deported back to El Salvador from the U.S. He told me how he fled there last spring after receiving two death threats from a gang that ruled his neighborhood with terrifying brutality. After months in a U.S. federal detention facility, a judge ruled his claim not credible and sent him home. He told me the gangs still terrorize his town. And today he's leaving for the U.S. once again. I saw on Facebook a picture of Orlando the Cuban smiling at a restaurant. He had already made it to San Antonio, Texas. Carrie Kahn, NPR News, San Salvador.
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