Your editorial (May 14), "Help for Salvadoran Refugees," is right on target.
The situation regarding returning workers was being discussed in Central America at the time I visited friends there in mid-April. The initiative to appeal to President Reagan actually originated with the minister of labor of Guatemala, who visited each country in the region to attempt a cooperative response and appeal to the United States regarding implementation of the present "amnesty" bill for undocumented residents.
Severe and widespread economic problems are obvious to the most casual visitor to El Salvador. The great majority of the people are too poor to have any minimal purchasing power, leaving the country with no stimulus for production, and hence virtually no internal economy at all.
Instead of stimulating the economy, the government is obsessed with destruction of what little economic base exists in any region felt to be vulnerable to guerrillas: bombing, napalm, destruction of crops and livestock have displaced as many as 500,000 people within El Salvador, where they live in camps resembling the internment camps for Japanese citizens in this country during World War II.
Health workers and community organizers are routinely terrorized by military or government agents. Significantly, the same newspaper that carried articles on the problem of the new U.S. immigration law also printed a large advertisement announcing the deaths by grenade explosion of agriculture cooperative workers and their children and calling upon the government to quit stalling and investigate this killing so similar to many previous government-inspired acts of terrorism.
The economic situation in El Salvador now resembles the Depression of the 1930s in the United States, but instead of sponsoring public works and conservation programs and drawing up social security plans, the government of Jose Napoleon Duarte, funded by the United States, tortures health workers and teachers and carries on an air war against impoverished peasants.
Granting "extended voluntary departure" status to large numbers of Central American refugees would grant them freedom to speak out against the state-sponsored and U.S.-funded terrorism in their countries. Continued refusal to acknowledge their refugee status effectively silences many who are afraid that exercising free speech to protest grotesque human rights abuses by a U.S.-sponsored government will cause them to be deported back to the same violent situation.