By Nicholas Varchaver
January 22, 2017

Good morning.

What’s the connection between Los Angeles gang violence and the person who answers your customer service call for Dell or AT&T? A lot more than you might think, according to a New Yorker feature entitled “The Deportees Taking Our Calls.” This surprising article marries two sensitive topics from the 2016 presidential election: immigration and moving jobs offshore. It turns out that a surprising number of El Salvadoran immigrants to the U.S. were deported back to back to their home country, sometimes because of gang activity. Many of these individuals have spent the majority of their lives in the U.S., which mean they speak fluent English with an American accent. That in turns means that El Salvador has become an unlikely island of call centers, employing 20,000 people (albeit dramatically fewer than in India or the Philippines). “At one call center I visited,” the New Yorker’s Jonathan Blitzer writes, “more than half the employees had been deported from the U.S. Recruiters show up at an isolated hangar of the San Salvador airport to intercept deportees as they get off small jets flown in by Immigration and Customs Enforcement.” I’m not going to try to make sense of the complexities of U.S. immigration policy in a paragraph, but there’s got to be a metaphor here. At minimum, I’m guessing most of us wouldn’t anticipate that the soothing voice advising us to reboot our laptop may be a former gang-member who has attempted to scratch off his tattoos because even in El Salvador (especially in El Salvador) they can put his life in jeopardy.

 

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