The Ugly American (And Her Even Uglier Salvadoran Friends)

On June 16, the American ambassador to El Salvador went home. Rose Likins, a career foreign service officer, had finished her three year tour. Likins had represented the Bush administration very well. She pushed hard for El Salvador to join Bush's "Coalition of the Willing" against Iraq and contribute 100 of its soldiers to post-war duty there. She also helped promote mass immigration and illegal alien amnesties—in short, she was a perfect servant of the Bush-Rove brain trust.

La Opinión, a Los Angeles Spanish-language daily, has reported on the extraordinary conduct of this American official:

"The U.S. Ambassador to El Salvador, Rose Likins, recommended yesterday that Salvadorans work together to arrive at agreements with her country to gain legal status for the Salvadoran immigrants [illegals] who live in various American cities.

"To local media Likins confirmed that the immigration situation of Hispanics in the United States [i.e., illegal aliens] is a topic of great urgency today at the highest levels of American politics and that she is betting on joint action among Salvadorans, U.S. Congressmen and Non-Governmental Organizations to fix the immigration situation of Salvadorans.

"'Something that would help would be if all the groups in the United States could reach agreement to work together, that all interested groups could really join together to be able to make this effort,' suggested Ambassador Likins."

[Embajadora de EU aconseja a inmigrantes salvadoreños, Juan José Dalton, La Opinión, July 15, 2003]

In other words, the U.S. ambassador encourages foreigners who seek to subvert U.S. law to join forces with each other, along with American politicians and supranational organizations—to pressure the government she represents to ignore its own laws.

Did this get her fired? Disciplined in any way by her boss, Secretary of State Powell? One guess.

The problem of Salvadoran immigration and illegal entry is real and growing. El Salvador's population grew from under 2 million in 1950 to over 6 million by 2000. There are now over 2 million Salvadorans in the United States, the majority probably illegal. Almost all have arrived since 1980, concentrating themselves in Los Angeles, San Francisco, Washington, D.C. and New York. At least 70,000 more enter the United States every year.

Like Mexico and other Central American countries, El Salvador is now a parasite state, heavily dependent on its ability to export people to the United States, who then will send dollars home to their families. Salvadorans working in the U.S. send back some $2 billion every year.

What sort of immigrants come here? El Salvador is an unlikely candidate to produce model citizens. According to our State Department's Consular Information Sheet, it is a pretty lawless place:

"The U.S. Embassy warns its personnel to drive with their doors locked and windows raised, to avoid travel outside of major metropolitan areas after dark, and to avoid travel on unpaved roads at all times because of random banditry, carjackings, kidnappings, criminal assaults and lack of police and road service facilities. … The U.S. Embassy considers El Salvador a critical crime threat country. Violent and petty crimes are prevalent throughout El Salvador and U.S. citizens are often victims. … Armed robbers are known to shoot if the vehicle does not come to a stop. Criminals often become violent quickly, especially when victims fail to cooperate immediately in surrendering valuables. Frequently, victims who argue with assailants or refuse to give up their valuables are shot. Kidnappings for ransom are an ongoing problem."

Salvadorans began to arrive in large numbers in the 1980s—often young men who had been part of the Leninist FMLN or the Mara Salvatrucha (MS) street gang. They brought with them a propensity for crime and violence. In California, they quickly learned L.A. gang ways from one of immigration's earlier gifts to America: Los Angeles' Mexican gangs. Soon their women started joining them, sometimes as gang members themselves. Their children are the second generation of Salvadoran "gangbangers" in the United States.

Los Angeles has experienced ongoing warfare ever since, as Mara Salvatrucha fights its Mexican and other rivals.

Inspector Al Valdez of the Orange County, Cal., DA's office, tells how MS went national, then multinational:

"Since its inception in California and Washington, D.C., Mara Salvatrucha has expanded into Oregon, Alaska, Texas, Nevada, Utah, Oklahoma, Illinois, Michigan, New York, Maryland, Virginia, Georgia, Florida, Canada and Mexico. MS is unique in that, unlike traditional U.S. street gangs, it maintains active ties with MS members and factions in El Salvador. Mara Salvatrucha is truly an international gang.

"MS is also involved in exporting stolen U.S. cars to South America. The cars are often traded for drugs when dealing with cartels. It is estimated that 80% of the cars driven in El Salvador were stolen in the United States. Car theft is a lucrative business for MS. … As with members of other gangs, MS members seem willing to commit any crime, but MS members tend to have a higher level of criminal involvement than other gang members. MS members have been involved in burglaries, auto thefts, narcotic sales, home invasion robberies, weapons smuggling, car jacking, extortion, murder, rape, witness intimidation, illegal firearm sales, car theft and aggravated assaults….drugs sold by MS members include cocaine, marijuana, heroin, and methamphetamine.

"Mara Salvatrucha gang members have even placed a 'tax' on prostitutes and non-gang member drug dealers who are working in MS 'turf.' Failure to pay up will most likely result in violence."

MS's level of violence is such that longer-established New York gangs such as the Crips and the Bloods have asked for police protection against them.

MS isn't worried about gringo lawmen, either. Valdez again:

"Mara Salvatrucha gang members have been responsible for the execution of three federal agents and numerous shootings of law enforcement officers across the country. MS gang members have been known to booby-trap their drug stash houses on the assumption that these structures will be searched by law enforcement."

MS is active outside big cities. It terrorizes newly-Hispanic areas of Long Island and was recently implicated in a murder and several shootings outside Charlotte, Va. Virginia's attorney general just announced stronger measures to fight gangs, largely Salvadoran, that have erupted from their bases in suburban Fairfax and Loudoun Counties.

The Open Borders crowd may claim that gangs and immigration have always been part of America's fabric.

But—even if that were true—it does not explain why Americans should accept the wholesale importation of violent criminals from an anarchic country.

No mention of Salvadoran contributions to America would be complete without noting Luis Martinez-Flores. This sometime resident of Falls Church, Va., snuck in from El Salvador in 1994. On August 1, 2001, he fraudulently signed Virginia DMV forms to help two young Arabs who'd overstayed their visa obtain Virginia driver's licenses. He certified falsely that they lived at his address.

Those licenses enabled terrorists Hani Hanjour and Khalid Almidhar to board their final flight to the Pentagon on the morning of September 11, 2001.

Thanks, Ambassador Likins. Thanks a lot.