Some 1.6 million people with their roots in El Salvador live in the US. The Washington Post describes a recent conference of Salvadoran American leaders who met to discuss how their various groups can work together in social and political spheres:
For nearly three decades Salvadoran immigrants have been among the nation's most organized newcomers, founding clubs to raise money for schools back home, establishing medical clinics for new arrivals and battling in Congress and courts to gain legal status for tens of thousands of political dissidents who fled persecution by the U.S.-backed government during El Salvador's civil war in the 1980s....
Among the clearest points of agreement was that Salvadoran Americans should insist that any legalization plan adopted by Congress allow about 200,000 Salvadoran illegal immigrants who were granted temporary legal status in the wake of a 2001 earthquake to be the first in line to become permanent legal residents.
Indeed, several participants pointed to the unusual interests of those Salvadorans as an example of why they need to organize as a separate, national Salvadoran American movement.
"We have a separate identity even as we're part of the larger Latino community," said Jose Artiga of the SHARE foundation, which promotes development in El Salvador.
For all the event's optimism, there are some daunting obstacles to transforming the numerical strength of Salvadoran Americans into political clout. According to an analysis of Census data by the Pew Hispanic Center, 47 percent of U.S. residents of Salvadoran descent are not citizens. And 26 percent more are citizens but are still children, leaving only 27 percent who are currently eligible to vote. And it was perhaps telling that much of the discussion at the conference was in Spanish.