WASHINGTON –A former Minister of Defense (1979-1983) of El Salvador was removed from the United States Friday by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) Enforcement and Removal Operations (ERO) officers for his role in the commission of human rights violations during the Civil War in El Salvador. The 1980-1992 war resulted in the death of more than 70,000 civilians.
ERO officers removed General José Guillermo García-Merino, 82, from the United States to San Salvador, El Salvador, via an ICE Air Operations charter aircraft. They arrested him Dec. 17 in Florida.
In a decision dated Dec. 8, the Board of Immigration Appeals (BIA) dismissed Garcia’s appeal and upheld a February 2014 immigration judge’s decision that Garcia was removable from the United States. The immigration judge found Garcia removable for assisting or participating in the commission of numerous acts of torture and extrajudicial killings in El Salvador while he was in command. The immigration judge determined, and the BIA upheld, that Garcia knew or should have known about extrajudicial killing and torture, under the theory of command responsibility.
This case was brought under the Intelligence Reform and Terrorism Prevention Act of 2004, which added provisions for the removal of aliens who have committed, ordered, incited or otherwise participated in acts of torture or extrajudicial killings.
“ICE is committed to ensuring that the United States does not become a safe haven for human rights abusers. No matter how long it takes, we will work to bring perpetrators of such acts to justice and to preserve the sanctity of the immigration system,” said Thomas Homan, executive associate director of ERO.
This case was litigated by ICE’s Miami Office of the Chief Counsel with the support of the Human Rights Law Section.
Since fiscal year 2004, ICE has arrested more than 360 individuals for human rights-related violations under various criminal and/or immigration statutes. During that same period, ICE obtained deportation orders and physically removed more than 780 known or suspected human rights violators from the United States. Currently, ICE’s Homeland Security Investigations has more than 125 active investigations into suspected human rights violators and is pursuing more than 1,750 leads and removal cases involving suspected human rights violators from 97 different countries.
Over the last four years, ICE’s Human Rights Violators and War Crimes Center has issued more than 70,100 lookouts for individuals from more than 111 countries and stopped 193 human rights violators or war crime suspects from entering the United States.