Facing deportation or returning to El Salvador

Preparing to return to El Salvador

You and your family may have to return to El Salvador, either voluntarily or due to deportation. If you face this possibility, plan ahead to make the process as simple and safe as possible for you and your family.

Breathe. Know that your family and community are holding you in their thoughts and prayers and it is your own inner strength that will get you through this difficult transition. Take good care.

Download and print a wallet card version of this resource.

Before you leave the U.S.

If you have time: 

1. Contact the Salvadoran Consulate in Aurora, Colorado by phone at 720-485-5412 or online at http://consuladoaurora.rree.gob.sv to get passports for you and your family members and other information for reentry.

2. Sign and give a Power of Attorney to someone you trust in the U.S. so that this person (your representative) can take care of your financial affairs for you after you leave.

3. Take care of your finances. Sell or transfer your real estate. Use banks to transfer funds from the U.S. to El Salvador.

4. Make arrangements for where you will go in El Salvador. Let your representative know how to contact you there.

5. Finish your family preparedness plan http://coloradoimmigrant.org/preparados. Tell your Power of Attorney where it is. Keep all your documents safe.

6. Avoid notarios!

7. Children of Salvadoran parents born in the U.S. may have the right to dual citizenship. Check with the Salvadoran Consulate for application information. Minor U.S. citizen children traveling to El Salvador should have a U.S. passport and a notarized consent form from the other parent or legal guardian permitting their travel.

8. Read the consulate website so you know what documents to bring.

9. Collect other documents for you and all children, such as school records and/or diplomas (notarized by school registrar), immunization records, and U.S. birth certificates.

10. Collect medical records; medications; marriage, divorce, and/or death certificates for every family member.

11. If family members travel separately, make sure that you sign an authorization letter for the adult caregiver who will be travelling with your minor children.

12. If a child will remain in the U.S. (even for a short time) in the care of a non-parent, sign a Power of Attorney authorizing the caregiver to care for your child.

Tip: Two last names (father’s last name, mother’s last name) may be required on all official documents. Be consistent in providing names.

Tip: Get more than one original birth certificate for each child because you may need them.

Warning: Keep in mind buying fake Salvadoran birth certificates can jeopardize your child’s dual citizenship.

Immediate deportation

  • Consider using the emergency notification app called Notifica to keep your family informed and aware. Many people use WhatsApp to communicate internationally (you need Wifi to use it).
  • While in GEO ICE Processing Center in Aurora, Colorado:
    • Family/friends may visit you if they have a valid passport or unmarked license. They should call GEO (303-361-6612) to get your visiting days and hours and instructions for visiting.
    • Family/friends can put money on your phone account at www.talton.com or 1-866-348-6231 using the detainee’s A#.
  • Leaving GEO in Aurora, Colorado:
    • You have the right to retrieve any clothing or possessions that you entered GEO with, such as your wallet, credit cards, and phone. Family/friends can also bring you “one of everything,” i.e. one pair of pants, underwear, bra, socks, shoes, one short-sleeve shirt, one long-sleeve shirt, coat, gloves, and hat.
    • If you have medicine approved and given by a GEO doctor, you can take it with you. This includes insulin and inhalers. If you can bring a written prescription from a doctor, that can be helpful.
    • If you can bring a credit card or between $200 to $500 in small bills, it will be helpful. Put the money in different pockets on your person, not in your bag. If you have money on account from the commissary, phone, or work, you will be given up to $500 in cash. If you have more than $500, you will receive a check, which can be hard to cash later.
    • Detainees are not given much advance notice of their departure date to avoid “incidents” during transport.

NOTE: This is how it is supposed to happen, but be prepared that you may not be able to bring all of these things.


The following items can often be brought by family/friends to GEO. They must bring a photo ID to drop off items:

  • Phone numbers for friends or family, both in El Salvador and in the U.S. (You should memorize them before leaving the U.S.).
  • Phone card, phone charger, and a backup phone battery.
  • Have an address in El Salvador. Many forms and job applications often ask for an address. Get an address of a family member that you can use.
  • Medications and written prescriptions in your name, such as insulin; what you need to keep it cool; inhalers. If you are diabetic, you may be able to bring a PowerBar or something similar.
  • Driver’s license or ID from any Salvadoran city or institution, like a DUI voting card.

What to expect from ICE transport

  • If you have an ankle monitor, you may have to get it removed prior to departure.
  • You may be handcuffed and shackled at the ankles during transit.
  • Your possessions may not be intact or returned to you at all.
  • You may travel by bus to Florence, Arizona or another location in the U.S. and then be put on a plane to El Salvador. You will be taken by bus into San Salvador for processing.
  • You may experience dehumanizing behavior from ICE officials. If you can remember their name or get their badge number, it could be helpful in the future or for others.*

*ICE does not respect your human dignity, but we do. Others you will find in El Salvador through this list will also treat you well and support you as much as they can.

When you arrive in El Salvador

General Cautions:

  • To stay safe, make a friend on the bus or plane. Stay together to support each other.
  • Be alert and calm. Blend in and comply with authority.
  • Avoid casual street encounters, including eye contact.
  • Don’t look vulnerable, but also don’t look cocky.
  • Beware of criminal elements. Don’t use an offered cell phone to call your family. Create a “palabra clave” or code word with family members in case someone calls asking for ransom. You should decide what you want your family to do if you are speaking to them under duress.
  • Keep contact information for your family in El Salvador (and all documents that prove your identity and deportation status) on you, not in your bag.

Cautions for El Salvador

  • The Directorate of Assistance to the Migrant (DAMI) is next to an area known as "La Chacra" gang domain.
  • If you do not know the area, ask in the DAMI for help with transport, directions, etc.
  • Beware of possible coyotes or scammers who may be outside of the DAMI. They may offer untrustworthy trips or fake accommodations for those waiting until the next day to return to their homes in El Salvador.
  • Avoid using certain words that currently people relate to gangs: “mara,” “homeboy,” “jaina,” “brother,” “madre,” “carnal,” “doggie.”
  • If you bring your own shoes, avoid wearing Nike Cortez, and adidas (white with three stripes).
  • Avoid clothing and shoes with the following numbers: 13, 18, and 503 ES. Do not mention these numbers in conversation.


People are transported to El Salvador from several detention centers in the U.S. Those deported from Denver generally depart on flights from Florence, Arizona. There are usually 110 people on these flights, which arrive in El Salvador in the afternoon. Their wrists and ankles are shackled until about 10 minutes before they land. All deportees are flown to Oscar Arnulfo Romero International Airport, located in San Luis Talpa, department of La Paz, about 40 kilometers (25 miles) from San Salvador. Food, consisting of two pupusas and a soda, is provided upon arrival.

From the Oscar Arnulfo Romero International Airport, returnees are transported to the Directorate of Assistance to Migrants (DAMI) in San Salvador:

Services: Verification, reception, and assistance for Salvadorans returned by land and air.
Hours: Monday-Friday, 8 a.m.-5 p.m. (according to service needs).
Address: Final Bulevar Cnel. Arturo Castellanos, Colonia Quiñonez, (La Chacra), San Salvador (behind the workshops of the National Civil Police - PNC).
Phone: (503) 2133-7900

There is a nine-step process at DAMI. (This procedure is not always followed as described.)

1. Interview with the General Directorate of Migration and Aliens (DGME). Interviews last about three hours and include:

  • Name, gender, age
  • Reason they migrated to U.S.
  • Length of time in U.S.
  • Where they lived and worked
  • If they have family still living in U.S.
  • If they experienced abuse during process of deportation
  • Contact information in El Salvador, if available

In some cases, when the person is detained in the U.S., their belongings are held, listed, and kept in a storage room until the date of the deportation. These belongings are sent in the same airplane as the deportees. Once the person arrives in El Salvador, they can request the items during this step of the interview process.

2. Interview with the National Civil Police
National Civil Police review individuals’ criminal and police records. They also take complaints of an act constituting a crime that is linked to why they left El Salvador for the U.S.

3. Medical consultation with the Ministry of Health
Returnees receive a general health check and a physical and psychological health diagnosis. They will get a referral to a health center near their home in the country for follow-up.

4. Provision of basic resources
Returnees get help with immediate needs to make a dignified return to their homes in El Salvador. That includes belts, shoes, shirts, pants, pampers, etc.

5. Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MRREE)
People can ask the MRREE to get information on how to contact their relatives abroad and the possibilities of reunification in El Salvador.

To get advice on how to claim property and acquired rights (for example, social benefits), they may have to contact the Human Rights Directorate of the Vice Minister for Salvadorans Abroad of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs at:

Reintegration Program for Returned Migrants
General Directorate of Human Rights
Ministry of Foreign Affairs
El Pedregal Street, Blvd. Cancillería. Ciudad Merliot, Antiguo Cuscatlán, El Salvador
Tel. (503) 22311184, Fax (503) 22311152

6. National Council for Children and Adolescents (CONNA)
When a child/adolescent is returned alone or accompanied by an adult, they are interviewed to ensure their best interests and determine whether the child/adolescent experienced abuse prior to leaving El Salvador. This information is provided to the Protection Board of the child’s home department.

7. Telephone and internet access/transportation assistance
At the DMGE, returnees can use telephones to make national and international calls. Internet access is also available.

Returnees can get financial help for interdepartmental transportation according to the fares established by the DGME.

8. Employment assistance
The MRREE and the Ministry of Labor have a bulletin board with job offers. They also have a phone number to get information about job openings. If no jobs are available, people can leave their phone number to be contacted once there are openings.

9. Reunions
Adult returnees, if detained, can communicate with their relatives and wait for them in a waiting room.

For unaccompanied children, the consulate abroad gives notice to the Human Rights Directorate of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. This office passes the information to the National Council for Children and Adolescents and in turn to the Child Protection Councils and Adolescence of the town of the child to give notice of the child’s deportation to their relatives.

Only children accompanied by their father, mother, or legal guardians can leave the DMGE without this step. However, the child’s birth certificate and the father/mother’s identity document(s) or the legal guardian’s authorization document must be provided.


The Migrant Assistance Center (CAIM) can provide shelter for returnees, if it is verified that bus service is not available or that the returnee does not have economic resources or family in San Salvador with whom to spend the night.

Nonprofit organizations providing assistance

Salvadoran Migrant Institute (INSAMI)
41 Avenida Norte No. 221, Colonia Flor Blanca, San Salvador
(503) 2207 2331
Contact: Cesar Rios, Director
Services: medical attention, psychosocial attention, orientation for employment opportunities

House of the Migrant of the Missionaries of San Carlos Scalabrini
6° Avenida Norte y Pasaje Viaud, Colonia Magaña, San Salvador
(503) 2221 9725
Contact: Brother Edgar Vallecillo
Service: Shelter (A new Center for Migrants is being built to support its programs and services.)

United States Committee of Refugee and Immigration (USCRI)
Colonia San Francisco, Calle los Bambués y Calle los Abetos, # 37-A y B, San Salvador
(503) 2526-9219
Contact: Eunice Olán, Coordinator

  • Orientation to current realities of Salvadoran communities—how to access medical and mental health care; how to obtain basic shelter, food and clothing; and how to look for jobs.
  • Legal representation for complex legal situations as well as help for submitting forms and presenting cases.