EFEBy Sara Acosta San Salvador

Daniel de Jesus Mejia and Mabel Lopez both are back in El Salvador after encountering difficulties in the United States.

Badly in need of support in a Central American nation with high levels of poverty and violent crime, they turned to a non-governmental organization that provides psychosocial, small business and other assistance to returning migrants.

The mission of the Alliance of Returned Salvadorans (Alsare), an NGO founded in 2015, is the "comprehensive reintegration of returned persons in their territories of origin," Juan Toledo, the group's president and a former migrant who moved back to El Salvador in 2014 after living in the US for 28 years, told Efe.

Alsare receives funds from different donors and carries out its programs in rural areas of the Salvadoran departments of Chalatenango, San Salvador and Cabañas.

Mejia, a 33-year-old artisan from Concepcion Quezaltepeque, a municipality in Chalatenango, decided to migrate to the US illegally in 2009 for economic reasons.

He made that choice "due to the economic situation in the country, since for several years there was very little money and at times food was scarce," he told Efe.

Mejia endured an extremely difficult journey and eventually arrived in New York City, where he made a living assembling massage chairs, washing cars and washing dishes at an Italian restaurant. It took him just over a year to pay off a loan he had taken out to finance his trip.

The Salvadoran voluntarily returned to his homeland three years ago due to a health issue, but he began suffering from anxiety and decided to approach Alsare for psychological assistance.

He said the process of readapting to his community was difficult and that he was "afraid to go out on the street" for fear of what people might say.

With Alsare's help, Mejia has resumed his work as a hammock maker and is seeking out new economic opportunities in El Salvador.

The 30-year-old Lopez, who also lives in Concepcion Quezaltepeque, has the dream of one day being reunited with her daughters who now live in the US.

The young woman decided in 2017 to emigrate with her mother, her two daughters and a niece due to "a political problem." All five of them were detained upon entering the US; her daughters, who are now six and 12, remained there and now are undergoing an asylum process.

"It was very difficult as a family because the treatment there was very harsh. There was a lot of psychological abuse - both for me and for my mom and my daughters," the Salvadoran woman said.

Lopez returned to El Salvador in August 2018 and later contacted Alsare.

"Soon after I arrived I presented my case and they offered their support, providing counseling, seeking out the information that I need, because I have to be on top of my girls' process and see what I can do here in the country," she said.

"The mere fact of being returned makes you feel in a rut ... but I've sought their guidance so I can find a solution and be able to reunite with my girls, be able to travel to where they are legally," Lopez added. EFE

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