Sunday, April 13, 2014
Immigration Court Rules that Salvadoran General Involved in Human Rights Atrocities Should be Deported
Julia Preston of the New York Times reports that an immigration judge has found that a former defense minister in El Salvador, an ally of the United States during a civil war there in the 1980s, should be deported because of his involvement in a number of human rights violations, including the assassination of an archbishop and the massacre of more than 1,000 peasants. The immigration court decision against the former officer, Gen. José Guillermo García, was issued on Feb. 26 but only released on Friday after a Freedom of Information Act request.
The ruling found that General García was directly involved in some of the most egregious killings and torture in El Salvador at a time when the U.S. government was supporting the Salvadoran military in its battle against leftist insurgents. Judge Horn found “clear and convincing evidence” that General García “assisted or otherwise participated” in 11 violent episodes that scarred the Central American country, including the 1980 murder of Archbishop Óscar Arnulfo Romero as he was saying Mass in San Salvador. The judge also found that General García helped conceal the involvement of soldiers who killed four American churchwomen later that year. He “knew or should have known” that army troops had slaughtered the villagers, including women and children, in the hamlet of El Mozote in December 1981.
General García, now 81, was defense minister from October 1979 to April 1983. In 1990 he was granted asylum in the United States. He has been living in Florida. In 1999, a nonprofit legal group, the Center for Justice and Accountability, brought a lawsuit against General García and another former Salvadoran defense minister also living in Florida, Gen. Carlos Eugenio Vides Casanova. The group claimed that the two men had played a role in the torture of three Salvadorans. In 2002, a jury returned a $54.6 million verdict against the officers, which was upheld in 2006.
Here is the decision of the immigration court. It is likely to be appealed and General García's removal is not immnent.