U.S. Board of Immigration Appeals Affirms Deportation (Removal) of Former Salvadoran General José Guillermo Garcia

As mentioned in a prior post, in October 2009, the Department of Homeland Security charged that General Jose Guillermo Garcia, who had been residing in the U.S. since his retirement from the Salvadoran military, was removable (or deportable) from the U.S. under the Immigration and Nationality Act on the grounds that he had committed, ordered, incited, or otherwise participated in torture and extrajudicial killings in El Salvador.

The seven-day trial or hearing on these charges before an immigration judge was held in February 2013, and a year later the judge issued his 66-page decision in the case ordering that Garcia should be removed (or deported) from the U.S.This conclusion was based upon the judge’s findings that:

  • “As head of the armed forces and the most powerful person in El Salvador, [García] fostered, and allowed to thrive, an institutional atmosphere in which the Salvadoran Armed Forces preyed upon defenseless civilians under the guise of fighting a war against communist subversives. Instead of institutional changes that would decrease the incidents of killings and torture by the military, [García] failed to stamp out death squads within the security forces.  Likewise, despite contemporaneous evidence that members of the military had been involved in the [1980] assassination of Archbishop Oscar Romero, [1] a man who could have been an ally in bringing about change and peace in El Salvador, [García] failed to adequately investigate.”
  • García helped conceal the involvement of soldiers who killed four American churchwomen in 1980.[2]
  • He “knew or should have known” that army troops had slaughtered the villagers, including women and children, in the hamlet of El Mozote in 1981.[3]

On December 15, 2015, the U.S. Board of Immigration Appeals upheld and finalized the removal order of Garcia in a decision that has not yet been made public. Whether he would exercise his right to appeal to a U.S. court of appeals was not immediately known.

This case has been conducted under the auspices of the Center for Justice and Accountability (CJA), a California-based human rights non-governmental organization. Its Legal Advisor Carolyn Patty Blum applauded the BIA’s decision. She said: “Minister of Defense Jose Guillermo García was the most powerful man in El Salvador during a reign of state terror in which tens of thousands of innocent Salvadorans were slaughtered.  CJA applauds the Department of Homeland Security for its vigorous pursuit of García before the Immigration Court and the Board of Immigration Appeals and thanks our client Dr. Juan Romagoza, once again, for testifying in court proceedings against General García, as he had in the case of former Minister of Defense Eugenio Vides Casanova, deported earlier this year. We hope that García can be swiftly removed from the U.S. and face justice in El Salvador for the El Mozote massacre and the many other crimes committed under his command. It has been a long battle for justice for our clients and other victims who suffered horrendous repression during García’s rule in El Salvador.”

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[1] This blog has published many posts about Oscar Romero.

[2] This blog has published many posts about the American Churchwomen.

[3] This blog has published many posts about El Mozote.

 

 

 

 

 

Essay About Archbishop Oscar Romero in Cuban Newspaper

On March 23, 2015, the day before the 35th anniversary of the assassination of Salvadoran Archbishop Oscar Romero, CubaDebate published an essay about Romero. The author is Adolfo Pérez Esquivel of Argentina, who started out as a painter, sculptor and architect and later became a prominent human rights advocate. In 1980 he received the Nobel Peace Prize for his work for human rights and peace. Below are extensive excerpts from that essay. [1]

“Martyrs are sowing seeds of life expectancy and strengthen the ways of faith. They have enriched the continent of Fertile Earth . . . by force of the prophetic word and the testimony of the lives of those who had the courage and faith to walk beside the Village Church of God. Their voices were raised across the continent and the world. So it was in the neighboring country of El Salvador, subjected to violence with more than 70,000 dead, exiled and persecuted. That pain was a voice of guidance, and hope emerged, denouncing violence and calling for respect for life and dignity of people under the civil war and military dictatorship.”

“It was the voice of Monsignor Oscar Arnulfo Romero, who experiences the conversion of his heart and embraces the way of the Cross. As St. Paul says: “It is madness for some; for others it is life and redemption.” (Emphasis in original.)

“Romero endured many misunderstandings in the same church; his voice, his claims and complaints would not be heard in the Vatican; there were ideological currents and misinformation about what happened in El Salvador. The conceptual and political simplification reduced everything to the East-West polarization between capitalism and communism, based on the Doctrine of the ruling National Security. They forgot the thousands of brothers and sisters who were victims of violence. Romero tried to get the Vatican to listen and help, but left distraught and returned home with pain in the soul.”

“Some peasants who knew him remember following the homilies of Monsignor Romero, with no need to hear his word directly and instead hearing them on the radios of all their neighbors who had them turned on.”

“The Archbishop knew of the [death] threats he was receiving, but the power of the Gospel and its commitment to the people were part of his own life. He sought God in prayer and silence listening to the silence of God, who taught his heart, his mind and spirit.”

“Journalists in March 1980 said that the Archbishop was on the line, targeted by the military. Romero replied, ‘Yes, I have frequently been threatened with death, but I must say that as a Christian I do not think in death without resurrection. If they kill me, I will rise again in the Salvadoran people. I say it without boasting, with the greatest humility. A bishop will die, but the church of God, which is the people, shall not perish.’” That March 23 at the Cathedral, Monsignor Romero in his homily said:

  • ‘I would like to make an appeal in a special way to the men of the army, and in particular to the ranks of the Guardia Nacional, of the police, to those in the barracks. Brothers, you are part of our own people. You kill your own campesino brothers and sisters. And before an order to kill that a man may give, the law of God must prevail that says: Thou shalt not kill! No solider is obliged to obey an order against the law of God. No one has to fulfill an immoral law. It is time to recover your consciences and to obey your consciences rather than the orders of sin. The church, defender of the rights of God, the law of God, of human dignity, the dignity of the person, cannot remain silent before such an abomination. We want the government to take seriously that reforms are worth nothing when they come about stained with so much blood. In the name of God, and in the name of this suffering people, whose laments rise to heaven each day more tumultuous, I beg you, I ask you, I order you in the name of God: Stop the repression!’”

“Monsignor Romero’s voice was heard clearly despite all odds and radio interference and equipment: “The church preaches liberation” … “The cathedral burst into applause, excited people felt the cry of their hearts.”

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[1] Esquivel, San Romero of America walks alongside the peoples of our continent, CubaDebate (Mar. 23, 2015)(English translation by Google Translate). Another Cuban newspaper, Granma, published a shorter article about Romero: Oscar Arnulfo Romero, a saint of the poor of America, Granma (Mar. 23, 2015). Oscar Romero is the personal saint of this blogger, who has written many posts about Romero and who points our that Tim’s El Salvador Blog has published great early photographs of Oscar Romero from the Salvadoran Museo de la Palabra y Imagen (Museum of Word and Image) plus other photographs of images of Romero in today’s El Salvador. (35th anniversary of Romero’s assignation (Mar. 24, 2015).

 

 

Salvadoran Archbishop Oscar Romero To Be Beatified on May 23, 2015

This Wednesday (March 11th) the Roman Catholic Church announced that the beatification of Salvadoran Archbishop Oscar Romero will take place this May 23rd. The ceremony will be in Plaza Divino Salvador del Mundo, in the country’s capitol of San Salvador. Cardinal Angelo Amato, prefect of the Church’s Congregation for Saints’ Causes, will celebrate the Mass. [1]

Archbishop Oscar Romero
Archbishop                        Oscar Romero
Plaza El Salvador del Mundo (with Romero statue)
Plaza Divino Salvador del Mundo (with Romero statue)

The announcement was made by Italian Bishop Vincenzo Paglia, the Roman Catholic Church’s chief promoter of the Archbishop’s sainthood cause, at a news conference Wednesday (March 11) in the Hall of Honor of El Salvador’s Presidential Palace. Present were the country’s President, Salvador Sanchez Ceren; Chancellor Hugo Martinez; the Archbishop of the City of San Salvador, Monsignor José Luis Escobar Alas; and Apostolic Nuncio, Leon Kalenga.

AnnBeatification

After looking at a portrait of Romero in the Hall of Honor, Monsignor Paglia said that this beatification is an extraordinary gift for the whole church in the world and especially for all El Salvador, because “Romero from heaven has become a good shepherd and today “Blessed.” This is a “time of joy and celebration. How not to recognize that the martyrdom of Archbishop Romero has given strength to many Salvadoran families who lost relatives and friends during the war.” Paglia stressed that the symbolism of the death of Monsignor Romero “has made him an eloquent witness of love for the poor that knows no limits. I think we have a protector in heaven, a protector for everyone, but especially the poor and humble in this country that has given the world and the Church a big child in love as Archbishop Oscar Arnulfo Romero.” (Photo has President Ceren (2d from left) and Bishop Paglia (2d from right).)

In response Present Ceren said, “Through his faith and work for the neediest people, Romero can inspire a new world of hope and optimism. This beatification also becomes a miracle to El Salvador, because it allows us, from his thoughts, to unite the country and face the new challenges we have. No doubt if Monsignor were still alive, he would help us join hands to bring peace to our family.” The President also said the country is committed to further developing and disseminating the thought of the Salvadoran martyr. “Monsignor Romero is a child who exalts this country. His work and doctrine has reached far corners of the world and has turned his life into a hope for humanity.”

The next day, Archbishop Paglia celebrated a mass of thanksgiving at Romero’s tomb in the Crypt of the Metropolitan Cathedral. In his homily Paglia urged everyone to continue Romero’s example of seeking justice. “Monsignor Romero continues preaching to us, he tells us that we need to hear the word of God, which means: love without limits. Romero is a beautiful stone that is built in heaven, which is why from now on we must speak with Romero, as a father and pastor,”

“Today Romero speaks louder than before. Romero does not need to be beatified, but the world needs to see witnesses like Monsignor Romero, because it is his example that we must imitate.This is the deeper significance of the beatification.”

Paglia also said Father Rutilio Grande was another character the world needs, because he was also on the side of the poor and denounced the injustices social that once were in the country. [2]

Many believe the March 11th date of the announcement is significant as Grande was murdered on March 12, 1977, and as Paglia in February announced that the Vatican also had opened a sainthood process for Grande. “It is impossible to know Romero without knowing Rutilio Grande,” Paglia said then.

Carlos X, the author of the SuperMartyrio blog devoted to the canonization of Romero, opined that the date of May 23 (Pentecost Eve), is significant “as a reflection on Romero’s death, as a retrospective on his ministry as a bishop, and as a meditation on the great charge that Romero sought to fulfill” for the following reasons:

  • “First, Romero died during Lent and was buried on Palm Sunday.  It seems sadly and sweetly fitting that he should return after Easter, resurrected not only in his people but in his Church, in which he will be raised to the honor of its altars.”
  • “Second, this Pentecost will be the 40th anniversary of Romero’s first pastoral letter, “The Holy Spirit in the Church,” issued in May 1975 while he was Bishop of Santiago de Maria.  Many will want to read that pastoral letter; they will find that it serves as an apt road map for the bishop that was Oscar Romero, and that he was faithful to its most fervent objectives.”
  • “Finally, Pentecost is the inspiration for the Second Vatican Council, and the Latin American bishops’ synods at Medellín (1968) and Puebla (1979), which guided Romero’s ministry.  It is impossible to read Romero’s episcopate but through the prism of these modern ‘Cenacles.’”

As a Protestant Christian of Presbyterian persuasion, I was baffled by the Roman Catholic Church’s concept of beatification. Research disclosed that beatification is a necessary condition for someone subsequently to be recognized as a saint, “a member of the Church [who] has been assumed into eternal bliss and may be the object of general veneration. A saint is also a person of remarkable holiness who lived a life of heroic virtue, assisted by the Church, during their pilgrimage on earth.”

Upon beatification, an individual can be called “blessed” and venerated by a particular region or group of people with whom the person holds special importance. Beatification usually requires evidence of one miracle (except in the case of martyrs). Since miracles are considered proof that the person is in heaven and can intercede for us, the miracle must take place after the candidate’s death and as a result of a specific petition to the candidate. Because Pope Francis confirmed the Church’s finding that Romero was a martyr, there was no need for proof of a miracle for his beatification, but evidence of a miracle will be necessary for the Church to canonize Romero as a saint.

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[1] Falasca, Oscar Romero will be blessed May 23, Avvenire.it (Mar. 11, 2015); Romero will be beatified in May, SuperMartyrio (Mar. 11, 2015); McElwee, Slain Salvadoran Archbishop Oscar Romero to be beatified May 23, Nat’l Catholic Reporter (Mar. 11, 2015); “The son of a small country in Central America is now placed among the blessed:” Vincenzo Paglia, DiarioCoLatino (Mar. 12, 2015); Vincenzo Paglia: Pope Francis calls us to imitate Romero, DiarioCoLatino (Mar. 12, 2015). There are many posts to this blog about Romero, including Pope Francis’ urging a quick beatification for Romero, Francis’ confirming martyrdom for Romero and additional details about that confirmation.

[2] In 2000 I attended a memorial mass in El Salvador for Rutilio Grande, as reported in a prior post.

 

 

Additional Details About Future Beautification of Archbishop Romero

On the morning of February 3, 2015, the Roman Catholic Church’s commission of cardinals unanimously confirmed the martyrdom of Archbishop Romero and that same afternoon Pope Francis did the same. February 3 is also the day that Romero was named Archbishop of San Salvador in 1977. [1]

The date of the beatification is being determined by the Vatican, but the place will be the Salvador del Mundo (Savior of the World) monument and plaza in San Salvador, the capital of El Salvador.

Super Martyrio, a layman’s blog devoted to the beatification and canonization of Romero, asserts that the determination of Romero’s martyrdom is significant for the following reasons:

  1. Archbishop Romero represents total fidelity to the Gospel and to the Church.
  2. Archbishop Romero is emblematic of the “New Martyrs”.
  3. Archbishop Romero is a model of holiness.
  4. Archbishop Romero is a peacemaker.
  5. Archbishop Romero embodies a coherent Christianity
  6. Archbishop Romero challenges us to be a Church that goes forth into the world.
  7. Archbishop Romero is a guide for the “preferential option for the poor”.
  8. Archbishop Romero challenged all parties to work together for the common good.
  9. Archbishop Romero is a great preacher.
  10. Archbishop Romero is recognized beyond the Church.

Great News! Muchas gracias, Super Martyrio, for your constant and excellent work on this most important cause!

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[1] This post is based upon Tim’s El Salvador Blog, St. Romero of the Americas (Feb. 3, 2015)(this blog post also has links to sources about Romero); Super Martyrio, At last, a speedy approval for Romero (Feb. 3, 2015)(extensive discussion of the reasons for the long delay in determining martyrdom); Super Martyrio, Ten reasons Romero matters (Feb. 3, 2015). 

Pope Francis Confirms Martyrdom of Salvadoran Archbishop Oscar Romero

On February 3rd Pope Francis confirmed the martyrdom of Salvadoran Archbishop Oscar Romero, when he was assassinated while saying mass on March 24, 1980, as an “act of hatred” for his Roman Catholic faith. This follows the finding of martyrdom by the nine-member Commission of theologians of the Church’s Congregation for the Causes of Saints and by a commission of cardinals and bishops. [1]

Archbishop Vincenzo Paglia, president of the Pontifical Council for the Family and the chief advocate for Archbishop Romero’s cause for beatification and sainthood, acknowledged that Archbishop Romero had been viewed by many over the years as a “bishop of the revolutionary left, of the Marxist culture.”

However, Archbishop Paglia added, “meticulous research erased all doubts and prejudices that many had within the church and in El Salvador.” As a result, “it was clear to us that killing a priest on the altar is a message for the whole church, a political message against a religious man.” Indeed, Archbishop Romero’s message stemmed directly from the Bible, and “today Romero is an enormous help to Francis’s vision of the church — their voices sound like one, a poor church for the poor.”

Last month Pope Francis quoted Romero: “Giving life doesn’t only mean to be killed. Giving life, having the martyr’s spirit, means giving while doing our duty, in silence, in prayer, while we honestly fulfill our duty.”

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[1] Pianigani, Pope Francis Honors Óscar Romero, Salvadoran Archbishop, as Martyr, N.Y. Times (Feb. 3, 2015),  This blog contains many posts about the life and death of Archbishop Romero.

Salvadoran Archbishop Oscar Romero Closer to Beatification

Oscar Romero
Oscar Romero

The nine-member Roman Catholic Commission of theologians at the Congregation for the Causes of Saints have given their unanimously positive vote to finding that Archbishop Oscar Romero was murdered “in hatred of the faith,” i.e., he was a martyr.[1]

Now a commission of church cardinals and bishops must approve this finding before it goes to Pope Francis for final approval

If this finding obtains those additional approvals, Romero can be beatified without a finding that a miracle happened through his posthumous intervention. After beatification, Romero will be a candidate for sainthood, for which a finding of a miracle is necessary.

As a Protestant Christian for whom Romero already is a saint, I am pleased with this development.[2]

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[1] This post is based upon Vatican theologians recognize Romero as a martyr, Super Martyrio (Jan. 8, 2015); Winfield, Slain Salvadoran archbishop closer to beatification, Portland Press-Herald (Jan. 10, 2015).

[2] This blog has a number of posts about Oscar Romero and his possible beatification.

Inspiration of a Christian Lawyer by the Martyred Jesuit Priests of El Salvador

In my first visit to El Salvador in April 1989 I did not know anything about the University of Central America (Universidad de Centro America or UCA) or about its Jesuit professors.

UCA's Romero Chapel
UCA’s Romero Chapel
Fr.  Jon Sobrino
Fr. Jon Sobrino

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

That started to change when the other members of my delegation and I visited UCA’s beautiful, peaceful campus, in contrast to the noisy bustle of the rest of San Salvador, and when we had an hour’s calm, reasoned conversation with one of its professors, Fr. Jon Sobrino, S.J., a noted liberation theologian. I came away impressed with UCA and with Sobrino.

I, therefore, was shocked six months later to hear the news of the November 16, 1989, murder of six of UCA’s Jesuit professors and their housekeeper and daughter. How could such a horrible crime happen to such intelligent, peaceful human beings in that tranquil, academic setting?

Martyred Jesuits, Housekeeper & Daughter
Martyred Jesuits, Housekeeper & Daughter

I was even more appalled when I learned about the selfless, courageous lives of the murdered Jesuits who used their minds, education and spirits to help the poor people of that country and to work for bringing about a negotiated end to its horrible civil war.

Their deaths were repetitions of the horrible assassination of Archbishop Oscar Romero on March 24, 1980, who like the Jesuits had used his mind, education and spirit to help the poor people of his country and to condemn violent violations of human rights. The same was true of another Salvadoran Roman Catholic priest, Rutilio Grande, who was murdered in 1977 because of his protests against the regime’s persecution of the poor people, and of the 1980 murders of the four American churchwomen, who worked with the poor in that country.

Thus, Romero, Grande, the four American churchwomen and the murdered Jesuits are forever linked in my mind as profound Christian witnesses and martyrs. Their examples have strengthened my Christian faith to love God with all your heart, mind and soul and your neighbor as yourself.

UCA's Romero Chapel
UCA’s Romero Chapel
Capilla de Hospital de la Divina Providencia
Capilla de Hospital de la Divina Providencia

 

All of these experiences have inspired me to learn more about El Salvador, Romero, Grande, the churchwomen and the Jesuits’ Christian witness in the midst of violence and threats to their own lives. On my subsequent five trips to that country, I always visit UCA for prayer in the Romero Chapel where the Jesuits’ bodies are buried and in the beautiful chapel of a cancer hospital where Romero was assassinated.

On my 2000 visit to El Salvador for the 20th anniversary of Oscar Romero’s assassination, my group visited UCA to spend time with its then Rector, Dean Brackley, a Jesuit priest from the U.S. who went to El Salvador to help UCA after the murders of his brother priests. He impressed me as a calm voice of reason and passion in UCA’s ministry of helping the poor and the country.

In 2010 I returned to El Salvador for the 30th anniversary of Romero’s assassination. On my delegation’s visit to UCA, we spent time with its then Rector, José Maria Tojeira, S.J.. He was an amazingly serene and soft-spoken man. He told us he was a new “church bureaucrat” (the Jesuit Provincial for Central America) at UCA in November 1989 and lived nearby, but not on the campus. During the night of November 15th-16th he heard gunfire and thought there must have been a skirmish between the Salvadoran security forces and the guerrillas. The next morning he went to the campus and was one of the first people to see the dead bodies of his six fellow Jesuits and their cook and her daughter. He nonchalantly said to our group, “That morning I thought I was the next one to be killed.” Later that day he went to his office and found faxed messages of support and solidarity from people all over the world. Then in the same casual manner, he said he thought, “Well, maybe I am not the next to be killed.”

As a result, my cloud of Salvadoran witnesses includes Oscar Romero; Rutilio Grande; the American churchwomen; the Jesuit priests; Fr. Brackley; Fr. Tojeira; Bishop Menardo Gomez of the Salvadoran Lutheran Church, who escaped a death squad on the night the Jesuits were murdered; Salvador Ibarra, who in 1989 was a lawyer for the Salvadoran Lutheran human rights office; and my Salvadoran asylum clients. Outside of El Salvador, of course, I am impressed by another Jesuit, Pope Francis.

I have been humbled to learn about the incredible courage and minds of the Jesuits, not just at UCA, but at other Jesuit universities that are generally regarded as the best of Roman Catholic institutions of higher learning. Simultaneously I am puzzled how such a marvelous group of religious men could have emerged from the Jesuits who were the shock-troops of the Counter-Reformation and did so many horrible things during the Spanish Inquisition.

All of this also inspired me to become a pro bono lawyer for Salvadorans and later others (an Afghani, a Burmese man, two Somali men and two Colombian families) who were seeking asylum or other legal status that would enable them to remain in the U.S. and escape persecution in their own countries. I always have regarded this as the most important and spiritually rewarding thing I have ever done. As I did so, I often reflected that I was able to do this in the secure and comfortable legal office of a large Minneapolis law firm. I did not have to risk my life to help others as did my Salvadoran saints.

After I had retired from practicing law in 2001, the Jesuits along with Archbishop Oscar Romero continued to inspire me to learn more about international human rights law as I co-taught a course in that subject at the University of Minnesota Law School from 2002 through 2010. In the process, I was amazed to discover the array of inter-related ways the international community had created to seek to enforce international human rights norms in a world still based essentially on the sovereignty of nation states.

I then was inspired to use my legal research and writing skills to investigate how these various ways had been used to attempt to bring to justice the perpetrators of the assassination of Archbishop Romero, the rapes and murders of the American churchwomen and the murderers of the Jesuit priests and then to share the results of that research with others on this blog. Many posts have been written about Romero, including the various unsuccessful legal proceedings to identify and punish those responsible for that crime. Other posts have discussed the criminal case still pending in Spain over the murders of the Jesuits and their housekeeper and daughter while another post summarized other legal proceedings that unsuccessfully sought to assign criminal responsibility for the murders of the Jesuit priests other than the brief imprisonment in El Salvador of two military officers.

I also have written the following other posts prompted by the 25th anniversary celebration of the lives of the priests and commemoration of their murders:

I give thanks to God for leading me in this path of discovery and inspiration.