(CN) – Advocates with a global human rights organization say at least 138 Salvadorans who were deported from the U.S. since 2013 were killed after returning to their home country, while more than 70 faced sexual violence, beatings, torture or other harm at the hands of gangs and even police.
In a report released Wednesday, Human Rights Watch blamed the deaths and violence in part on the Trump administration’s moves to tighten immigration policies and restrict asylum opportunities for people fleeing to the U.S.
“Salvadorans are facing murder, rape, and other violence after deportation in shockingly high numbers, while the U.S. government narrows Salvadorans’ access to asylum and turns a blind eye to the deadly results of its callous policies,” Alison Parker, an advocate with the human rights organization, said in a statement accompanying the report’s release.
Human Rights Watch said that in many of the cases it researched, there was a “clear link” between deportees being killed or harmed after arriving back in El Salvador and the reasons they had fled the country in the first place.
The Department of Homeland Security did not immediately respond Wednesday to a request for comment on the report’s findings.
The Trump administration has sought to end temporary protections from deportation for more than 300,000 undocumented immigrants living in the U.S., though the move has been tied up in the courts as the U.S. tries to prove the decision was not motivated by racism against nonwhite immigrants.
According to the report from Human Rights Watch, 195,000 Salvadorans are covered by the Temporary Protected Status program that President Trump has tried to end. Though the administration did allow Salvadorans who have work permits associated with the program to remain in the U.S. through January 2021, advocates still worry about the fate of those people should the government ultimately prevail in court challenges.
Another 25,600 undocumented Salvadorans are currently protected from deportation under the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, or DACA, Wednesday’s report noted, an Obama-era program the Trump administration is also fighting in court to end.
In releasing the report, Human Rights Watch called on the U.S. to broaden its asylum laws to protect “anyone, like many of the Salvadorans featured in the report, who would face a real risk of serious harm upon return.”
“Instead of deterring and deporting people, the U.S. should focus on receiving those who cross its border with dignity and providing them a fair chance to explain why they need protection,” the report states.
El Salvador has one of the highest murder rates in the world. It peaked in 2015 with more than 6,000 homicides, according to the United Nations.