U.S. deportations of alleged El Salvador gang members surge

SAN SALVADOR (Reuters) - The deportation of alleged gang members to El Salvador from the United States surged close to 140 percent in 2017, the Central American country’s migration authority said on Wednesday.

The United States deported 1,241 Salvadorans in 2017 for alleged connection to gangs, compared to 524 in the previous year, the government said.

Ninety of those individuals were later arrested in El Salvador, the migration authority said.

U.S. President Donald Trump implemented a crackdown on illegal immigrants that has included nationwide raids to arrest teenagers who entered the country without guardians and are suspected gang members.

The raids were a sharp departure from practices during the presidency of Barack Obama.

Under Obama, minors could only be targeted for deportation if they had been convicted of crimes, but were not arrested simply for suspected gang activity or membership.

Impoverished El Salvador has been plagued by a wave of violence attributed to the gangs, popularly known as “maras.”

The government touted a 25 percent drop last year in homicides as a sign that its strategy to fight gangs is working, but it still has one of the highest murder rates in the world.

Reporting by Nelson Renteria; Editing by Sandra Maler