WASHINGTON –A former minister of defense of El Salvador was removed from the United States by officers with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) Enforcement and Removal Operations (ERO) Wednesday, after the Board of Immigration Appeals (BIA) dismissed his appeal and upheld an immigration judge’s decision finding him removable for his role in the commission of human rights violations during the Civil War in El Salvador. The 1980-1992 war resulted in the death of more than 70,000 civilians.
In a published decision March 11, the BIA dismissed the appeal of Carlos Eugenio Vides Casanova, 77, the former director of the National Guard (1979-1983) and Minister of Defense (1983-1989) of El Salvador. The BIA decision upheld the August 2012 immigration judge’s decision finding Vides Casanova removable for having “committed, ordered, incited, assisted or otherwise participated” in acts of torture and extrajudicial killing.
The BIA decision held that the totality of the record supported the conclusion that Vides Casanova’s actions “fall within the definition of assisting or otherwise participating” in extrajudicial killing and torture, under the theory of command responsibility. This case was brought under the Intelligence Reform and Terrorism Prevention Act of 2004, which added provisions relating to aliens who have committed, ordered, incited or otherwise participated in acts of torture or extrajudicial killings.
The decision specifically recognizes two Salvadoran torture survivors who testified in proceedings, as well as seven victims of extrajudicial killing, including four American churchwomen killed in December 1980 and two Americans and their Salvadoran colleague killed in January 1981.
“As this case makes clear, ICE is committed to ensuring that the United States does not become a safe haven for human rights abusers. We will work to bring perpetrators of such acts to justice and preserve the sanctity of the immigration system for legitimate refugees,” said Thomas Homan, executive associate director of ICE ERO.
Vides Casanova was arrested in Florida March 25, and removed from the U.S. by ERO officers via an ICE Air Operations charter aircraft Wednesday, traveling from Alexandria, Louisiana, to San Salvador, El Salvador.
This case was litigated by ICE’s Orlando Office of the Chief Counsel with the support of the Human Rights Law Section and the Immigration Law and Practice Division.
Since fiscal year 2004, ICE has arrested more than 296 individuals for human rights-related violations under various criminal and/or immigration statutes. During that same period, ICE obtained deportation orders and physically removed more than 740 known or suspected human rights violators from the United States. Currently, ICE’s Homeland Security Investigations has more than 140 active investigations into suspected human rights violators and is pursuing more than 1,800 leads and removal cases involving suspected human rights violators from 97 different countries.
Over the last four years, ICE’s Human Rights Violators and War Crimes Center has issued more than 67,000 lookouts for individuals from more than 111 countries and stopped 161 human rights violators or war crime suspects from entering the United States.
Members of the public who have information about foreign nationals suspected of engaging in human rights abuses or war crimes are urged to contact ICE by calling the toll-free ICE tip line at 1-866-347-2423 or internationally at 001-1802-872-6199. They can also email HRV.ICE@ice.dhs.gov or complete ICE’s online tip form. ICE’s tip line is staffed around the clock, and tips may be provided anonymously.