13 Pages

Washington, D.C.

WithRobert S. Kahn

Most Washington-area refugees are from the eastern departments, or states, of La Union and San Miguel, areas of heavy warfare and frequent government bombing during the Salvadoran civil war. Just as baffling as the dissonance between the lives of Salvadorans and the politics of Washington was the ease with which one could find government documents that proved US complicity in torture and murder. The gulf between Salvadoran reality and Washington politics was absolute. The continuing stream of refugees had no influence on US policy, and policymakers showed no understanding of the lives of El Salvador's poor majority and no inclination to try to understand them. Just as political campaigns have been run on a "theme of the day" since Reagan's 1984 landslide, US officials in charge of refugee policies had three themes from which they never strayed: There is no repression in El Salvador; things are getting better; Salvadorans just come here to find work or to go on welfare.