Abstract This study extends segmented assimilation to post-deportation studies. Drawing from life history interviews with 96 deported Salvadoran men, it argues that deportees follow different paths to re/integration upon return. Divergent trajectories are explained by an interaction between the context of return (government policies, social reception, economic structure, and the deportee community), migrant characteristics (demographics, criminal and migratory histories, economic resources, and social ties), and agentic behavior. In El Salvador, national affiliations and perceptions of deportee criminality emerge as the best predictors of post-deportation outcomes. Deportees who grew up in El Salvador and remained connected to it while abroad (Salvadoran Nationals) encountered a relatively more favorable societal reception but faced a precarious economic situation. Conversely, deportees who spent significant time in the U.S. and continued identified with it prior to removal (U.S. Nationals) were highly stigmatized and criminalized upon return. U.S. nationals struggled to find employment and were targeted by police and gangs. Regardless of sociocultural and economic outcomes, both Salvadoran nationals and U.S. nationals longed to return to the U.S., especially if they had children abroad. The study affirms existing research claiming that mass deportation may slow but does not stop the migration cycle in the Americas. It also offers an analytical framework for future comparative post-deportation research. deportation, segmented assimilation, segmented re/integration, El Salvador In recent decades the U.S. witnessed the rise of a deportation regime characterized by the increasingly standardized use of enforcement to manage migration and undesirable noncitizens (Peutz and De Genova 2010). Exclusionary immigration laws are deeply entrenched in U.S. history, but the current regime is unprecedented in its scope and punitive nature (Kanstroom 2007 and 2012). Today’s mass deportation is rooted in the decline of the welfare state, rise of neoliberalism, and the wars on drugs and terrorism (Golash-Boza 2015). Starting in the 1990s, media, political, and economic actors increasingly “cast undocumented migrants—typically racialized as Mexican—as anti-citizens who threaten the overall well-being and security of the social body” (Inda and Dowling 2013: 5). Since then anti-immigrant sentiment helped justify the militarization of borders, expansion of the private prison industry, criminalization of immigrants, and expedited removal of noncitizens without adequate due process (Kanstroom 2012). Between 1995 and 2014, annual removals increased 814%—up from 50,924 to 414,481 (USDHS 2016). The Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act and Anti-Terrorism and the Effective Death Penalty Act of 1996 are most clearly responsible for this increase. The laws dramatically increased the crimes for which people could be deported and significantly limited judicial discretion and review (Kanstroom 2012). Immigration judges are now prohibited from considering migrants’ contributions and connections in many removal decisions. A vast array of individuals must be also detained, especially those convicted of a wide range of “aggravated felonies.” Deportation cases are rarely re-opened, especially from abroad (Kanstroom 2012). Though noncitizens in removal proceedings are more likely to obtain relief with an attorney the state does not provide them to the indigent (TRAC Immigration 2015). A growing body of socio-legal literature examines the impact of the modern deportation regime on families and communities in the U.S. Scholars consistently find that deportation ignites fear and stigma in migrant communities, promotes distrust of law enforcement, fractures families, forces children into foster care, and diminishes the health, educational outcomes, and socioeconomic status of those left behind (Abrego 2011; Brabeck, Lykes, and Hunter 2014; Dreby 2015; Hagan, Castro, and Rodriguez 2010; López and Minuskin 2008; Thornson 2006; Zayas 2015). These effects reinforce deportability—the fear of deportation—which keeps undocumented populations vulnerable to exploitation and abuse (De Genova 2002). The immigrant rights movement responded to these trends by reframing immigrants as contributors to U.S. society (Bloemraad, Silva, and Voss 2016). Public outcry helped garner victories like prosecutorial discretion and deferred action. While these actions mitigate some negative effects hundreds-of-thousands of people continue to be expelled each year. Scholars are beginning to examine post-deportation experiences and outcomes. The model of segmented re/integration presented here advances this literature by arguing that deportees constitute one type of returnee: those expelled from a host country through force or coercion by the state. Similar to the divergent paths followed by immigrants in host countries, I argue that deportees experience segmented paths of re/integration in countries-of-origin (Portes and Rumbaut 2006). Life-history interviews with 96 men removed from the U.S. to El Salvador suggests that there exist multiple post-deportation trajectories in deportee-receiving societies. These are shaped by structural, individual-level, and agentic factors. In the Salvadoran context, national affiliations, stereotypes of deportee criminality, and gendered subjectivities play particularly powerful roles in conditioning varied social and economic outcomes. POST-DEPORTATION LITERATURE A small but growing body of post-deportation literature shows that deportation is a challenging event in the life courses of an increasing number of migrants (Brotherton and Barrios 2011; Charles 2010; Coutin 2016; Drotbohm 2012, 2014, and 2015; Galvin 2015; Golash-Boza 2014 and 2015; Headley 2006; Pereira 2011; Peutz 2006 and 2007; Schuster and Majidi 2013 and 2015). The literature collectively debunks the notion that migrants’ “homelands” are their natural sites of belonging. Deportees who acculturate within host countries often experience deportation as a form of exile or banishment (Brotherton and Barrios 2011; Coutin 2016). Those who spent significant time abroad often experience “reverse culture shock” upon return. Such deportees are forced to navigate life in countries where they hold citizenship but lack substantive connection. Many lack social ties to and memories of their countries-of-origin and thus do not identify with it. The deportee experience varies depending on the country to which migrants are returned. For instance, Golash-Boza (2015) finds that deportees are more stigmatized in Guatemala and the Dominican Republic than Brazil. Research in the Northern Triangle and the Caribbean finds that deportees often become objects of state surveillance and police brutality (Brotherton and Barrios 2011; Coutin 2016; Headley 2006; Pereira 2011; Zilberg 2011). Deportees in these countries often experience discrimination, become homeless, enter the informal labor market, and are targeted by gangs. With limited options for survival many receive remittances and emotional support from abroad (Golash-Boza 2014). A large quantity feel they must risk re-migration to the U.S., especially if they have family abroad (Hagan, Eschbach and Rodriguez 2008; Cardoso et al. 2014). The existing literature thus tells a tale of diminished post-deportation life chances. This narrative is compelling and ostensibly accurate but would be strengthened through more comparative research. Existing studies focus mostly on deportees who entered the U.S. as children and were deported years later as adults (Brotherton and Barrios 2011; Coutin 2016; Dingeman-Cerda and Rumbaut 2015; Golash-Boza 2015). Others demonstrate the violent ways deportation is implemented at the U.S.-Mexico border but have yet to parse divergent outcomes across types of deportees (Slack, Martínez, Whiteford, and Peiffer 2015). This article offers a framework for comparative post-deportation studies within a given deportee-receiving country, drawing on the case of El Salvador. The model of segmented re/integration posited here argues that different types of deportees will follow different post-deportation paths depending upon interactions between the context of return in the country-of-origin, demographic characteristics, social identities, and agentic behavior. THEORIZING SEGMENTED RE/INTEGRATION In Immigrant America, Portes and Rumbaut (2006) argue that group outcomes in immigrant-receiving countries are minimally dependent on group motivations and abilities (Portes and Rumbaut 2006). Rather, “complex structural forces confront immigrants as an objective reality that channels them in different directions” (Portes and Rumbaut 2006: 101–102). This context of reception—including its government policies, societal reception, labor market conditions, and the strength of ethnic communities—produces different opportunity structures for various national-origin groups. Portes and Zhou (1993) extend this model in their model of segmented assimilation. They argue that poor, low-educated, and dark-skinned immigrant groups are often tracked on paths of downward mobility over generations. Conversely, groups with more human capital and stronger ethnic communities have more opportunities to craft paths to upward mobility. Segmented assimilation does not yet account for the trajectories of subgroups expelled from host societies. Deportees are not only ignored in immigrant incorporation literature, but also influential theories of return migrant re/integration (Cassarino 2004; Gmelch 1980; Ruben, Van Houte, and Davids 2009). The model of segmented re/integration presented in Figure 1 rectifies these silences through an extension of segmented assimilation to the aftermath of both forced and voluntary return. I argue that, like integration into host countries, divergent post-return outcomes are shaped by complex interactions between contextual and individual-level characteristics. The mode of return, or way migrants “go back” to countries-of-origin plays a key role in shaping various outcomes. Migrants can return via formal removal, voluntary return, and coerced forms of return like “voluntary departure.” Deportee experiences are likely to be distinct from voluntary returnees because the population did not wish or were not ready to return (Gmelch 1980). Deportees are also more likely to be criminalized, detained, and incarcerated prior to return and they may face greater stigma than voluntary returnees (Wheatley 2011). Figure 1. View largeDownload slide Model of Segmented Re/integration Figure 1. View largeDownload slide Model of Segmented Re/integration Regardless of the mode of return, migrants face a context of return in their countries-of-origin. This context is conceptualized as a series of overlapping social fields (re)produced within and across national borders (Levitt and Glick Schiller 2004; Medina and Menjívar 2015). It includes government policies, societal reception, and the nature of labor market and its returnee/deportee community. This environment in turn interacts with the individual-level characteristics of returnees, including their demographics (age, gender, education, sexuality), migratory histories (reason for migration, age at migration, time abroad, acculturation experiences), criminal histories (type of offense, length of imprisonment, gang involvement), social ties (strength and location of support networks), and economic resources (savings, access to housing, transportation, and remittances). Returnees will quickly find themselves situated in different social positions (Ruben et al. 2009). Relatively privileged returnees will have the freedom to craft sites of belonging by using various “homemaking strategies” while the disadvantaged are more likely to exhibit “coping strategies” to survive (Golash-Boza 2014; Hammond 1999). Such tactics may either reproduce or alter deportees re/integration paths. Over time, cognizably different trajectories may be observed. Various subgroups of deportees may end at similar sites (e.g. poverty), but the routes they follow to their destination are likely to differ. THE SALVADORAN CASE The Salvadoran context of return is shaped by El Salvador’s position in the global economy, especially its political-economic and migratory relationship with the U.S. (Baker-Cristales 2004; Menjívar 2000). Ties to the U.S. emerged prior to Salvadoran independence and grew with the mass exportation of coffee in the 20th century. In the late 1970s longstanding domestic inequalities gave way to large-scale civilian uprising against the U.S.-backed Salvadoran oligarchy. An estimated 25% of the population migrated to the U.S. (Menjívar 2000; Gammage 2007). Salvadorans continue to emigrate in the post-war years out of poverty and due to widespread inequality, ecological disruptions, gendered violence, and street crime (Gammage 2007). By 2012, Salvadorans constituted the sixth largest foreign-born (1.2 million) and second largest unauthorized population (690,000) in the U.S. (Brown and Patten 2014; Baker and Rytina 2013). The U.S. government initially denied Salvadorans refugee status, but some entrants eventually received relief under the 1986 Immigration Reform and Control Act, 1991 American Baptist Churches v. Thornburgh settlement, and 1997 Nicaraguan Adjustment and Central American Act (Coutin 2000) Advocates also negotiated Deferred Enforced Departure and Temporary Protected Status, which provided temporary protection from removal to some Salvadorans (Coutin 2000). Regardless, most Salvadorans continue to live in states of “illegality” and “liminal legality” in the U.S. (De Genova 2002; Menjívar 2006). In 2014, Salvadorans were the fourth most-deported group from the country (26,685) behind only Mexicans (275,911), Guatemalans (54,153), and Hondurans (40,560) (USDHS 2016). Most were removed for immigration violations and nonviolent offenses, though some are deported after serious crimes (HRW 2009; Rosenblum and McCabe 2014). In the wake of its civil war, El Salvador entered a period of democratization and reform, but it continues to struggle with the problems that initially gave rise to civilian discontent and mass migration (Moodie 2010; Zilberg 2011). The postwar Salvadoran state pursued neoliberal policies, including free trade, privatization, dollarization, divesting in services, and encouraging migration to attract remittances (Baker-Cristales 2004). Such policies mildly increased the GDP and grew the middle class, but also inflated prices, decimated local agriculture, contributed to national debt, and denied vulnerable populations a safety net (Velásquez Carrillo 2012). By 2012, 43% of the Salvadoran population was underemployed, and 34.5% lived in poverty (Segovia and Marczak 2012). The economy remains highly dependent on U.S. remittances (Gammage 2007). The postwar years also brought about a transition from political violence to street crime (Bourgeois 2001). Starting in the mid-1990s, members of Latino gangs formed in California—like MS-13 and 18th Street—were deported. An estimated 10% of the deportees entered local cliques, and some rose to power (Cruz 2010). Vigilantes hunted down, disappeared, and killed presumed gangsters (Fariña, Miller, and Cavallaro 2010; Zilberg 2011). Meanwhile, the Salvadoran state imported zero-tolerance policing practices imported from the Giuliani Administration (Wolf 2017; Zilberg 2011). Gang membership was declared illegal. The police often harassed, arrested, and abused persons carrying “markers” of gang membership, like baggy clothes, tattoos, and English accents (Coutin 2016; Zilberg 2011). Far from reducing violence, such practices appear to have hardened oppositional identities (Wolf 2017; Zilberg 2011). Homicide rates in El Salvador are now among the highest in the world, in large part due to gang violence (Gurney 2015). A weak institutional framework for deportee re/insertion has done little to mitigate the hostile context of return. At the airport, deportees are greeted by Bienvenidos a Casa, a program that provides an introduction to the country, a snack, and money for bus tickets (Hagan et al. 2008). The program also takes photos of persons with criminal records and tattoos. In 2015, a new organization, Retornados El Salvador, was created to facilitate re/insertion, but until then the onus for re/integration fell mostly to deportees and their families (Rietig and Dominguez Villegas 2015). METHODS Salvadoran deportees are vulnerable, decentralized, and difficult to locate. Data for this study was collected through referral and snowball sampling. Academics, attorneys, and nonprofits provided referrals. Participants were selected if they were adults, received a formal order of removal from the U.S., and were deported to El Salvador at least once. Most participants could not articulate their mode of return, but most claimed they “saw a judge” or “signed a form.” Such cases were treated as “formal” and “stipulated” removals, sufficient grounds for inclusion (Kanstroom 2012). Though the study team targeted women, they were both difficult to locate and sometimes reluctant to speak. This study thus focuses on the men who constitute 89% of annual Salvadoran removals from the U.S. (Golash-Boza and Hondagneu-Sotelo 2013; Villegas and Rietig 2015). Controlling for gender also permits analysis of the ways masculinity shapes the experience and narration of return. It makes possible future comparisons of deportee experiences based on gendered identities. The study team conducted a total of 96 interviews with deported men between 2008 and 2013. In 2008, Susan Coutin conducted interviews with 14 deportees in El Salvador with my assistance. The same year I interviewed an additional 29 men and in 2011 I interviewed 47 men. Cristy Ayala--a bilingual and bicultural Salvadoran resident who assisted with the project since 2008--conducted a final six interviews in El Salvador in 2013. 92 of the 96 men were interviewed in El Salvador and four were interviewed in Los Angeles, where they had returned to live after deportation. All participants were interviewed in their preferred language. Whenever I conducted an interview in Spanish, Cristy assisted with translation. I asked the question in English, Cristy interpreted the question verbatim, and interviewees responded in Spanish. Unless I was confused, which was relatively rare, we moved to the next question. This strategy produced robust data. Interviews lasted between 45 minutes and 2.5 hours, averaging 1.5 hours. We asked participants a series of open-ended questions about migration, acculturation, detention and removal, post-deportation, future plans, and opinions on immigration and deportee re/integration reform. Interviews were transcribed with the assistance bilingual English-Spanish research assistants. They translated transcripts from Spanish to English during transcription, as necessary. I then analyzed the transcripts in English using initial and focused coding and memos in NVivo. I extracted demographic information from the interviews and compared re/integration outcomes across various categories of deportees. I took care to gain insight into “the members’ meanings” and aimed represent deportees’ experiences as they narrated them (Emerson, Fretz, and Shaw 1995: 112). Pseudonyms are used throughout the article to protect the participants. PORTRAIT OF THE SAMPLE Table 1 provides a portrait of the sample. The mean age was 31.9 years old. The men migrated at an average of 15 years old and spent 11.2 years abroad. They migrated for various reasons, including economic deprivation (55%), war (27%), reunification (11%), gang violence (3%), and curiosity (3%). Half remained undocumented, 25% attained permanent residency, and the remaining 25% held asylum, visas, and other liminal statuses. The population completed 9.4 years of school. 50% spoke Spanish-only, 48% were bilingual, and 2% spoke English-only. Owing to El Salvador’s preoccupation deportee criminality (Zilberg 2011), I deliberately oversampled persons with criminal histories. 56% of study participants reported a crime and 28% claimed gang-involvement in the U.S. Though only 36% of the sample were removed for immigration violations, this population reflects most deportees in El Salvador (Rietig and Villegas 2015; USDHS 2016). Table 1. Characteristics of Sample of Male Salvadoran Deportees Total (N = 96) ES Nationals (N = 51) US Nationals (N = 45) Characteristic Mean Mean Mean Age 31.9 30.0 32.9 Age at migration 15.0 20.3 8.7 Years in US 11.2 5.1 17.8 Years since removal 6.0 5.6 6.5 Highest education 9.4 8.0 10.9 N Ratio N Ratio N Ratio Reason Migrated Economic 53 0.55 37 0.73 16 0.36 War 26 0.27 4 0.08 22 0.49 Family Reunification 11 0.11 5 0.10 6 0.13 Curiosity 3 0.03 2 0.04 1 0.02 Gangs 3 0.03 3 0.06 0 0.00 Legal Status Achieved Undocumented 48 0.50 39 0.76 9 0.20 Permanent Resident 24 0.25 2 0.04 22 0.49 Asylum 6 0.06 1 0.02 5 0.11 TPS or Work Permit 13 0.14 8 0.16 5 0.11 Unreported 5 0.05 1 0.02 4 0.09 Reason Removed Immigration Violation 35 0.36 33 0.65 2 0.04 Crime 54 0.56 16 0.31 38 0.84 Unreported 7 0.07 2 0.00 5 0.11 Linguistic Ability Spanish only 48 0.50 44 0.86 4 0.09 Bilingual 46 0.48 7 0.14 39 0.87 English only 2 0.02 0 0.00 2 0.04 Gang Membership - US No 58 0.60 46 0.90 12 0.27 Yes 27 0.28 1 0.02 26 0.58 Unreported 11 0.11 4 0.08 7 0.16 Gang Membership - ES No 72 0.75 47 0.92 25 0.56 Yes 13 0.14 2 0.04 11 0.24 Unreported 11 0.11 2 0.04 9 0.20 Work Status - ES Unemployed 22 0.23 7 0.14 15 0.33 Informal labor market 7 0.07 5 0.10 2 0.04 E.S. labor market 46 0.48 37 0.73 9 0.20 Call centers 18 0.19 1 0.02 17 0.38 U.S. labor market 3 0.03 1 0.02 2 0.04 Total (N = 96) ES Nationals (N = 51) US Nationals (N = 45) Characteristic Mean Mean Mean Age 31.9 30.0 32.9 Age at migration 15.0 20.3 8.7 Years in US 11.2 5.1 17.8 Years since removal 6.0 5.6 6.5 Highest education 9.4 8.0 10.9 N Ratio N Ratio N Ratio Reason Migrated Economic 53 0.55 37 0.73 16 0.36 War 26 0.27 4 0.08 22 0.49 Family Reunification 11 0.11 5 0.10 6 0.13 Curiosity 3 0.03 2 0.04 1 0.02 Gangs 3 0.03 3 0.06 0 0.00 Legal Status Achieved Undocumented 48 0.50 39 0.76 9 0.20 Permanent Resident 24 0.25 2 0.04 22 0.49 Asylum 6 0.06 1 0.02 5 0.11 TPS or Work Permit 13 0.14 8 0.16 5 0.11 Unreported 5 0.05 1 0.02 4 0.09 Reason Removed Immigration Violation 35 0.36 33 0.65 2 0.04 Crime 54 0.56 16 0.31 38 0.84 Unreported 7 0.07 2 0.00 5 0.11 Linguistic Ability Spanish only 48 0.50 44 0.86 4 0.09 Bilingual 46 0.48 7 0.14 39 0.87 English only 2 0.02 0 0.00 2 0.04 Gang Membership - US No 58 0.60 46 0.90 12 0.27 Yes 27 0.28 1 0.02 26 0.58 Unreported 11 0.11 4 0.08 7 0.16 Gang Membership - ES No 72 0.75 47 0.92 25 0.56 Yes 13 0.14 2 0.04 11 0.24 Unreported 11 0.11 2 0.04 9 0.20 Work Status - ES Unemployed 22 0.23 7 0.14 15 0.33 Informal labor market 7 0.07 5 0.10 2 0.04 E.S. labor market 46 0.48 37 0.73 9 0.20 Call centers 18 0.19 1 0.02 17 0.38 U.S. labor market 3 0.03 1 0.02 2 0.04 Consistent with past research, the deportees in the sample experienced “extreme duress” and a “profound despair in regard to their future prospects” (Golash-Boza 2014: 66). Owing to their mode of return, they were detained and sometimes incarcerated for months to years prior to removal. Many fought expensive and unsuccessful legal battles to stay in the U.S. They usually returned with little money or possessions and sometimes retained debt from migration. Most described sorrow and resentment over separation from U.S.-based family, livelihoods, and opportunities. Several turned to alcohol and drugs to cope and a few reported suicidal thoughts. Though they shared similar experiences and traumas, deportees’ lives ultimately followed different post-deportation paths. The context of return in El Salvador interacted with their personal characteristics and agentic behavior to produce segmented outcomes. Most notably, men who narrated stronger membership to the U.S. (“U.S. nationals”) reported categorically different re/integration experiences than those claiming stronger pre-deportation membership to El Salvador (“Salvadoran nationals”). National affiliations correlated with several other characteristics related to their migratory histories. These included pre-migration residence (rural vs. urban), reason for migration, age at migration, length of time abroad, location of primary support networks (U.S. versus El Salvador), and linguistic abilities (Spanish, English, or Bilingual). After isolating these various characteristics, no single factor neatly predicted divergent outcomes. They operated in tandem in ways that speak to the power of immigrant incorporation in host countries in shaping re/integration after removal. Without a large, random sample to control for various factors, I rely primarily on deportees’ narratives. Their stories suggested that membership to the U.S. versus El Salvador aligned closely with varied outcomes. Regardless of their self-reported criminal history, national affiliations—or the way they spoke about themselves in relation to the U.S. versus El Salvador—corresponded with the degree to which deportees were stereotyped as “criminal deportees” in El Salvador. It also predicted the ways they were re/integrated economically after return. Salvadoran Nationals The second column in Table 1 reveals the characteristics of 51 Salvadoran nationals. These men mostly grew up in rural regions. Most emigrated as young adults and were deported an average of 5.1 years later. The majority migrated as laborers (73%), though other reasons included reunification (10%), war (8%), gangs (6%), and curiosity (4%). Most entered the U.S. without authorization and remained undocumented. The population intended to work for a few years, send remittances home, and return to El Salvador. Many of them secured jobs, rented apartments, and purchased vehicles in the U.S., yet they continued to identify as Salvadoran and maintain transnational ties while abroad. 65% were removed for immigration violations and 31% for crimes. Only one Salvadoran national reported gang-involvement in the U.S. After deportation, most Salvadoran nationals returned to the rural areas they once left, though some lived in urban spaces. U.S. Nationals The third column highlights the characteristics of 45 U.S. nationals. These men migrated at young ages (8.7 years) and spent an average of 17.8 years in the U.S. They typically migrated due to the civil war (49%), though several left for economic reasons (36%), family reunification (13%), and curiosity (2%). Most obtained documentation, such as a green card (49%), asylum (11%), TPS or other visa (4%), and work permits (7%). 84% of U.S. nationals reported criminal convictions in the U.S. These ranged from public intoxication, driving while intoxicated, aggravated assault, sexual assault, armed robbery, and attempted murder. 58% of this sample self-reported gang-involvement in the U.S. Since most were forthcoming about criminal and gang histories, I treated self-reports as accurate. It is worth noting, however, that definitions of gangs vary and persons with self-reported gang histories are also known to both under- and over-report criminality (Klein and Maxson 2013; Webb, Katz, and Decker 2006). Because they spent much of their lives abroad, nearly all U.S. nationals described their acculturation, identities, and loss of Salvadoran connections as a process of becoming American or becoming Latino. Most were educated in the U.S. through high school. 87% were bilingual and 4% could speak English only. Most did not retain memories of El Salvador or maintain transnational ties. Few had intentions of returning to settle in El Salvador. Raised largely in Latino neighborhoods, several identified with Mexican culture. One felt the most camaraderie with African Americans. One person did not even know he was a Salvadoran citizen until he was in deportation proceedings—he thought he was Mexican. Most erroneously believed “permanent residency” meant they could reside in the U.S. permanently. Nearly all U.S. nationals lived in urban areas of El Salvador after removal. Three had re-migrated clandestinely and lived in Los Angeles at the time of their interview. DIVERGENT POST-DEPORTATION TRAJECTORIES IN EL SALVADOR The Salvadoran context of return interacted with their personal characteristics, especially their status as U.S. nationals or Salvadoran nationals, to produce divergent sociocultural and socioeconomic re/integration trajectories. The deportees argued that their national affiliations determined the degree to which they were stigmatized as criminal deportees—a master status that, once applied, shaped nearly all other interactions in the country. Their national affiliations also strongly impacted both groups’ distinct experiences with the labor market. As Figure 2 shows, Salvadoran nationals experience relatively better sociocultural outcomes, but face a precarious economic situation. U.S. nationals struggle to be re/integrated socio-culturally but face varied economic outcomes. Regardless of sociocultural and economic outcomes, both groups report strong desires to return to the U.S. These findings are explained in rich narrative detail below. Figure 2. View largeDownload slide Divergent Post-Deportation Outcomes in El Salvador Figure 2. View largeDownload slide Divergent Post-Deportation Outcomes in El Salvador Sociocultural Re/integration Salvadoran Nationals Salvadoran nationals spent their formative years in El Salvador, so they had an understanding of the context of return. Most were not concerned about where they would live upon return because they maintained transnational networks to family and friends while abroad. Regardless, most felt ashamed that they were unable to achieve their migratory goals in the U.S., especially to accumulate savings and purchase homes and cars for their families. As Roberto expressed, “I wasn’t feeling quite right because you don't want to be coming back how I came… I wanted to help the family, but I couldn’t. I was afraid they were disappointed in me.” Salvadoran nationals were aware of stereotypes that deportees steal jobs from locals and engage in crime in El Salvador. Many expressed concern that they would be perceived as security threats. To guard against criminalizing stigma, some controlled information about their deportee status. As Paco stated, deportees “can talk so dirty about who they are, and what they are, to themselves. But they don’t go speaking to anyone outside of their own minds.” Others felt the need to clarify to friends and family that they did not commit crimes abroad. Juan claimed, for example, that his mother repeatedly pestered him about whether he was deported for a criminal offense. Once he explained he was apprehended in a workplace raid, she retracted judgment and expressed sympathy for the “injustice” he encountered. After successfully distancing himself from “criminal deportees,” Juan was relieved. “It was emotional. I felt like they still loved me,” he said. Most Salvadoran nationals did not spend enough time abroad to acculturate to U.S. norms. They also did not consider themselves distinct in appearance or mannerisms from the local Salvadoran population. Because they were not distinguishable, their deportee status did not impact their everyday interactions. In one case, Armando stated that locals gossiped about him, stating that the U.S. made him “arrogant.” But most Salvadoran nationals expressed an experience similar to Sergio, who claimed that “the society, it just treats us the same as everyone else. Even if they know we came deported, they just see us as people who were unlucky, that’s it.” Armando ultimately agreed with Sergio, stating that, “everyone was so happy because I wasn't injured and happy because they said that God brought me back safe.” Though this “return-as-homecoming” experience was stronger for deportees returning to tightly bounded families and communities, it existed to some extent whether Salvadoran nationals resided in rural or urban areas. U.S. Nationals Unlike Salvadoran nationals, U.S. nationals faced a hostile societal reception. Most established livelihoods in the U.S., including families and stable employment. They did not have many memories of El Salvador prior to migration and did not sustain transnational ties to the country. However, due to discourse circulating in detention facilities, they were acutely aware of the history of gangs, death squads, and zero-tolerance policies in El Salvador (Wolf 2017; Zilberg 2011). Several were afraid they would be killed or detained immediately upon arrival. Some deportees are murdered on entry, but those I spoke with survived. However, nearly all of them complained--typically at length and in vivid detail--about the stigma, criminalization, police brutality, and gang violence they endured on a regular basis since removal. U.S. nationals claimed that local Salvadorans identified them as deportees by the way they walked and their English and Mexican accents, lighter skin color, haircuts, style of attire, and especially their tattoos. Such identifiers marked them as not only “foreigners” but potentially violent gangsters. This was the case whether they resided in rural or urban areas, but especially in and around San Salvador. The experience was also heightened for individuals with tattoos and those with self-reported gang histories. Giovanni explained, They [are] real racist here about that here, the tattoos…You know, up there [in the U.S.], you don't have to be a gangster, or be bad, to wear some jewelry or a basketball jersey and show off your tattoos. Here, it’s a different thing. People look at you like, “oh you’re a gangster, you’re a gangster, so watch out!” You might not even be one, but just because you’re a little baggy watch out!… Man, with all the shit I’ve been through down here, I would be Rodney King up there! Despite the deportee-gangster stereotype, most U.S. nationals actively avoided gang-involvement in El Salvador. Even if they had been heavily involved in the U.S., most hoped to build new lives absent of crime. They explained that risks outweighed the potential benefits of gang-involvement to their lives. Even those who had been deeply entrenched in gangs in the U.S. claimed “it’s not worth it” to get involved in Salvadoran gangs. Ricardo, a self-proclaimed “true gangster” in the U.S., expressed the common claim that, “the gangster life here is like a cheap life. They go around asking for money and doing stupid things. They kill people for nothing… Over there [in the U.S.], you can get money. Over here, you can’t do that. It’s just stupid if you get into it.” Rolando agreed, arguing that local gangs “kill for a cell phone,” an act he considered “senseless.” He distanced himself from Salvadoran gangs by claiming, They always say it is the deportees’ fault that there are gangs here… That’s the stereotype. That’s what the news says. But, it’s not true. Most of the gang members here are people from here. The ones that get deported like us, we stay away from it… We just avoid them. Though most U.S. nationals avoided gang life in El Salvador, they were treated as if they were actively involved. Moodie (2010) argues that much of Salvadoran society feels a perpetual sense of insecurity due to high crime rates, and they develop strategies to avoid risk. Locals avoided potentially contentious interactions with deported U.S. nationals by avoiding eye contact, side-stepping them on the sidewalks, and refusing to sit next to them on buses. This was the case for Luis who had lived 23 years in New York City where he integrated into Dominican and African American culture. He claimed no history of gang involvement, but bore a visible tattoo on his leg, wore shorts and t-shirts instead of slacks and button-down shirts, and adorned himself with a silver necklace that he believed marked him a “thief.” He said, Everybody looks at you different…and you are the same people! You speak the same language. And you sit down on the bus and—just because you dress differently—and there may be an empty seat on the bus—but, he may prefer to stand up on the bus than sit next to me! Those are the things I get fed up with! U.S. nationals were most vocal about their negative interactions with Salvadoran police officers. Stop-and-frisk had become routine in many of their lives, and police brutality was common. One U.S. national claimed he was stopped by the police over 35 times though he was never active in local gangs. Others interviewees were not surprised by this case. Rolando explained, “the cops, they involve us. We walk down the street, they pull us over. [They say,] ‘you’re a gang member.’ It happens to me all the time. A couple weeks ago they had me there at the bus stop… And they asked for my work badge and they were like, ‘alright, but lift up your shirt.’ And I am like, ‘Aw man!’ They wanna see the tattoos. Shit, basically, we just getting harassed here all the time, especially by the police.” Giovanni agreed, saying that the police “don't care that we have jobs to go to, or a life. They make you wait. And they want to have you for a half-an-hour, or an hour, to do it all.” This kind of harassment has clear psychological implications, but also affects deported U.S. nationals’ ability to maintain employment. U.S. nationals were also regularly targeted by gang members who wanted to recruit, extort, or otherwise threaten them. This was especially true for U.S. nationals with tattoos, a muscular body, and “baggy” attire. Antonio was a former gang member who converted to Christianity prior to removal. Yet he was still targeted several times upon return. He explained, Word got out around that there was a new guy here in the neighborhood, all with tattoos and stuff. Then they…just threatened me. They said “if you come around here again, I’m going to kill you.” So, I didn't take that as a joke. I just decided to move…But, the local gang members saw me again…And they came from behind and were like, “hey fool, where you from?” And, I was like, “I don't want no problems. I go to church and stuff.”…And that’s when they had the knife, a big knife. Lucky, the guy dropped the knife. But, yea, they beat me up pretty bad… They told me if they see me again, they were going to kill me. Antonio continued his process of gang avoidance by developing “coping strategies.” He removed his visible tattoos, dressed conservatively, and avoided gang territory. He struggled with an addition to alcohol, but was attending seminary to become a pastor at the time of his interview. Though he left re-migration open as a possibility, he did not wish to return to the U.S. because he had children since his deportation. His dream was to lead a bilingual parish that would welcome people from all walks of life. In other words, his religion became the vehicle through which he hoped to craft a home for himself and his family in El Salvador. The vulnerability of U.S. nationals like Antonio affected their ability to establish and maintain local support networks. Some lived with extended family when they first arrived but these relationships were unstable. They were most problematic when U.S. nationals attracted police and gang attention to their neighborhoods. Some U.S. nationals were uncomfortable relying on family or inviting harm, so they looked for alternate housing. In other cases, family asked deportees to find new homes. In the case of Victor, familial rejection was the “last straw.” Homeless and without support, he joined the very gang he wished to avoid. He rose to the leadership of a clique of 18th Street. When he finally decided to desist, he was murdered, presumably by his own gang who viewed him as a traitor. While this is an extreme case, unstable family relations and familial rejection frequently left deportees alienated and depressed and sometimes homeless. They were often dependent on financial and emotional support from family and friends in the U.S. Over time several U.S. nationals acclimated to El Salvador. Their homemaking strategies included making new friends, finding new romantic partners, and having children. Still, nearly all longed for their U.S.-based families, friends, and livelihoods. They also fantasized about re-migration. Research suggests that fantasies of deportee re-migration may not parallel actual attempts (Cardoso et al. 2014; Hagan et al. 2008). Still, many deported U.S. nationals were planning or had already attempted to return, sometimes multiple times. As Pablo claimed, I don’t think that I can make a life in this country…I have 99.9% that it would be impossible for myself… My plan is by next year in January to leave here and go over there… To see my kids grow up, raise my kids, and educate my kids, that is my responsibility as a father to my kids. That’s my dream. And I ask God [to] give me my opportunity that I deserve. He knows what kind of man I am and I deserve a second chance in his hands. Economic Re/integration Salvadoran Nationals When Salvadoran nationals first migrated to the U.S. most left rural areas where they had been employed in low-wage agricultural and manual labor. When these same people were deported they returned to a similar economic as the one they once left. A few saved some money while in the U.S., which modestly improved their post-deportation living conditions. Though most returned without savings and several were bonded to smugglers by debt. Because of this poor economic context of return, Salvadoran nationals almost uniformly expressed that finding employment was the most important and challenging aspect of re/integration. Javier reported, Before I left to the United States, I had a job here. I was working here on the farm. But, I had to leave to help support my family. And then when I came back to here, I had to look for a new job. I was worried about getting a job. I thought it would be hard to find. But, I knew I had to do it. If I wasn’t going to make it to the United States, I had to try to make it here, you know, for my family. High rates of unemployment and underemployment initially made it difficult for deported Salvadoran nationals to locate jobs. However, since most were not in the U.S. long enough for their social support networks to dissolve, they solicited assistance from their friends and family. This “homemaking” strategy was generally effective. After a period of unemployment, many Salvadoran nationals secured jobs. A common story comes from Miguel, who stated, When I returned, I did not work for eight months because I couldn’t find anything. Then, I started talking to my friend, and he is a painter. So, he talked with…his supervisor of the company for painting, residential painting. So, he gave me a job. And, my friend, he…is a pretty nice guy… When we were little boys, we were raised together. We went through… school together. So, he helped me out a lot. In rural areas, the positions Salvadoran nationals obtained included farming and bricklaying. In urban spaces, they found jobs as servers in restaurants, store clerks, and construction workers. Most positions paid $8 USD per day. In a dollarized economy, such an income is insufficient to adequately support a family, let alone pay off debt, build a home, and become upwardly mobile. Enrique’s story illustrates the challenge, I knew that I would come back and I would help my family by making bricks. I would probably live with my mom. I have always lived there. And it was the same. I got the same job back at the same company because the boss liked my work. I make the same money. I make $40 each week. It is all exactly the same. But, the problem is that there are eight people living in my house. My dad, he is too old and cannot work. My mom can’t work either. And I have five siblings. The girls, they are too young. And my brothers, they earn the same as me. So, together we make like $120 each week… It is very hard… I am not happy. I face a critical financial situation and I don’t know what I can do anymore. Salvadoran nationals are left with two realistic, undesirable, options. They could stay in El Salvador where they feel they “belong” but in a nearly impossible economic situation. Or they could re-migrate to where greater economic opportunities exist, but they must endure family separation, a dangerous journey, and possible federal incarceration and deportation. Several U.S. nationals thought the risks of re-migration were too great, so they resigned themselves to poverty. Others felt they had no other option. The comments of Jesús are representative, It is impossible for us to survive like this, you know, working on the farm. I worry for my wife and my coming baby. I want to give them a better life, you know? But what can I do? The government of the United States doesn’t want me there, but we can’t survive here. It’s not enough, you know, money. Someday, I think I will have to try again. I did it before, and, prayers to God, I can do it again. U.S. Nationals U.S. nationals also found employment to be one of the greatest barriers to re/integration. Poor economic conditions and a dearth of local support networks kept them reliant on remittances. This was a de-masculinizing experience for deportees who were once breadwinners for their families (Dreby 2015; Drotbohm 2015; Golash-Boza 2014). They wished to be financially independent, but discrimination prevented them from finding jobs. Pablo explained, The hardest part of being deported is thinking that, if I wanna work, it’s hard to find it. Right now, I’m trying to get me a job. I wanna work and I expected God to give me an opportunity here… I need to keep my mind, myself, busy. And, I need a little money to spend day-to-day. But…They treat me like I am not from here. They act like they are threatened by the deportees… They think we steal their jobs. U.S. nationals struggled to find information about jobs and to garner references. They were rejected by employers who would not accept U.S. educational credentials. Several were asked to take lie detector tests to prove they did not have criminal histories. Some employers asked them to remove their shirts to prove they did not have tattoos. Mateo and his brother Mauricio were both active gang members in the U.S. but were uninterested in gang involvement in El Salvador. They wanted to find legitimate employment but were repeatedly turned away. Mateo said, We tried to go to see what kinds of jobs you can get in, but they see you with tattoos, and there isn’t nothing you can do… Plus, the majority of the jobs here, you have to do a polygraph test. And they ask you if you have tattoos, use drugs, and stuff… So, if they think you are a gang member, you are done. A lack of references, inadequate certifications, and discrimination make the labor market challenging for U.S. nationals to navigate. Equally problematic is the salary they would likely earn. Because the population was accustomed to higher standards-of-living in the U.S., most rejected the Salvadoran labor market in their interviews. This mutual rejection of the Salvadoran labor market placed U.S. nationals in a structurally vulnerable position. Over half remained unemployed and most remained reliant of remittances despite their desires for independence. The neo-liberalization of the Salvadoran economy fostered the emergence of an outsourced telecommunications industry in the country. Corporations like Dell and Sykes rely on a highly vulnerable and pliable workforce in their call centers. They also require customer service agents with high school equivalency, bilingual abilities, computer skills, and knowledge of U.S. culture. Because deported U.S. nationals hold these credentials they have become a form of “preferred labor” (Lawrence Brown 2013; O’Neill 2013). Call center jobs are scarce, competitive, and applicants can be disqualified for criminal records. Still, most employers accept educational credentials from the U.S. and do not overtly discriminate based on tattoos. This prompts many deported U.S. nationals to seek out employment in these firms. 17 deported U.S. nationals (38% of the sample) found employment as customer service agents in call centers. These deportees are aware that their labor is being exploited by corporations that appear to be chasing their vulnerable labor. Regardless, most argued that the benefits of these jobs outweighed the drawbacks. Call center employees earned $500 per month, as well as benefits, overtime, and opportunities for promotion and further education. This amounts to a substantially higher standard of living than the average Salvadorans, so most U.S. nationals were “thankful for the opportunity.” Mauricio, who eventually received a job at a call center, explains, The salary for the Salvadoran people is not really good… We are making like $500 per month. That is not bad here! We are getting hands-on training. They have that program there too, where you can take classes at work, online…It’s all free…It is a company that will let you grow inside…from regular team member, to agent, to team leader. Promotions, you know, it’s good. Call centers are also spaces in which deportee solidarity is fostered. Precursory evidence of this phenomenon was observed at the home of Mauricio and Mateo. When their interviews were complete, a group of twelve U.S. nationals who worked in the same call center had arrived. They were entertaining themselves in the brothers’ garage. The men were drinking beer, watching American football on television, and sharing stories of lives past and present. Three years later, Carlos, a deportee from a different social circle corroborated this phenomenon, We have barbeques and go out for drinks, even football. We talk about the games. Or we go into a house and watch football games…We continue with whatever we grew up with over there [in the U.S.] especially those that have been a long time over there… Like, sometimes you see people talking in English. You know that’s ‘cause they were over there and they likely work in a call center… And we continue all that, the culture, with the habits that we were doing over there. Call centers allow for the formation of “little pockets” of the U.S. in El Salvador that are both beneficial and problematic (Coutin 2007). On the one hand, they provide a source of economic and social support otherwise be absent for most U.S. nationals. This social capital can buffer their entry into gangs. It also has to potential to inspire collective action for deportee rights. On the other hand, call centers exploit vulnerable persons and perpetuate the neo-colonization of El Salvador. They are incapable of alleviating the pain of family separation and loss of livelihoods by deportation. Thus, regardless of their economic outcome, most U.S. nationals interviewed for this study entertained dreams or considered the possibility of re-migrating to the U.S. This was especially the case for individuals who had children in the United States and less so for those who formed families in El Salvador after removal. The location of children and desire to provide for them emerged as the linchpin for determining U.S. nationals’ desired location. DISCUSSION & CONCLUSION This study contributes to deportation studies examining transnational effects of the “ex-corporation” of noncitizens treated as “indigestible” in immigrant-receiving societies (Aleinikoff and Rumbaut 1998; Young 1999). The model of segmented re/integration argues that deportees are one type of returnee who follow different trajectories after departure from the host country. Segmented pathways to re/integration are rooted in early childhood, migratory, and incorporation experiences abroad. Segmented paths in host countries continue after return through interactions between multi-scalar contexts of return, individual-level characteristics, and agentic behaviors. The context of return in El Salvador is shaped by internal struggles for power and resources, and neocolonial relations with the U.S. In the wake of the U.S.-funded Salvadoran civil war, Salvadoran politicians pursued neoliberal economic policies that increased the GDP and middle class but perpetuated landlessness, underemployment, inequality, and poverty. A minority of deportees returned from the U.S. in the 1990s helped import MS-13 and 18 Street gangs to El Salvador (Cruz 2010; Wolf 2017; Zilberg 2011). Since then the identities of deportees and gang members have become linked, and deportees are often blamed for violent crime in the country. Anti-gang policies imported from the U.S. target deportees who acculturated to U.S. society even if they do not have gang histories (Zilberg 2011). In the absence of a strong framework for re/insertion, deportees and their families mostly take on the burdens of re/integration themselves. In the Salvadoran context of return, national affiliations and associated perceptions of deportee criminality emerged as the best predictors of divergent outcomes among deported men. Persons who grew up in El Salvador and remained connected to it while abroad (Salvadoran nationals) encountered a relatively more favorable societal reception but faced a precarious economic situation. Those who spent significant time in the U.S. and continued to identify with it after removal (U.S. nationals) were stigmatized and criminalized. They struggled to find employment and remained dependent on remittances. Call centers provided some U.S. nationals with sustainable wages, a vehicle to avoid gangs, and a source of solidarity and potential source of future collective action on behalf of deportee rights. But these firms are also anti-union establishments known to capitalize on the outsourced labor of deported persons in ways that ultimately sustain dependent economic relations with the U.S. (Lawrence and Eleanor 2013). Regardless of national affiliations and post-deportation outcomes, most Salvadoran and U.S. nationals fantasized about returning to the U.S. Salvadoran nationals considered re-migration due to unsustainable economic conditions in El Salvador, while U.S. nationals hoped to escape the hostile context of return and reunite with family. Re-migration would be costly, dangerous, and is not guaranteed to be successful. Yet few Salvadoran deportees denied the possibility of a future re-migration, especially if they had children abroad but less so if they had children in El Salvador. This finding confirms research indicating that mass deportation may slow, but does not stop the displacement-deportation cycle in the Americas (Hagan et al. 2008; Cardoso et al. Hagan 2014). Mass deportation is a gendered and racialized program that disproportionately targets Black and Latino men (Golash-Boza and Hondagneu-Sotelo 2013). Only 57% of unauthorized migrants are men, but they constitute 93% of deportees from the U.S. and 89% of deportees to El Salvador (Dreby 2015; Villegas and Rietig 2015). The stories of the 96 men examined here suggest ways gendered subjectivities may impact post-deportation experiences and outcomes. Male migrants targeted by immigration enforcement are caught in a “neoliberal cycle” that encourages their migration as the market demands and disposes of it when no longer necessary (Golash-Boza 2015). The men in this study expressed sorrow and frustration that they were unable to provide for their families when they were removed from the U.S. and also when they accepted remittances from their spouses and parents. Their interactions with police and gangs were also uniquely gendered as boys are men are the primary targets of both in El Salvador. The experiences of women are likely to diverge because of different societal expectations around their labor and delinquency. Future research should continue to interrogate the construction, function and transnational impacts of anti-immigrant policies. Post-deportation research could track and compare the experiences and outcomes of a wider population of deportees, starting with women and children and expanding out toward a host of intersectional identities, including sexual minorities. Ideally, researchers could track the varied post-deportation trajectories of large, representative samples of deportees longitudinally from the moment of return. Such a project could draw on segmented re/integration as an analytical framework. It could help produce a set of predictive pathways that could be tested across other contexts of return. Research of this sort would continue to highlight the “legal violence” of policies of mass deportation and the dearth of re/integration support (Menjívar and Abrego 2012). It would also reflect the realities of an increasingly large and vulnerable population of displaced and dispossessed migrants. 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Social Problems – Oxford University Press
Published: Feb 1, 2018
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