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ICE arrests former Salvadoran Army officer in New Jersey accused in El Mozote massacre case in El Salvador

April 06, 2023 (1 min read)

DHS, Apr. 6, 2023

"U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) Enforcement and Removal Operations (ERO) officers with the assistance of Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) agents arrested a Salvadoran national on April 4 for assisting or otherwise participating in extrajudicial killings and for willfully misrepresenting this material fact in his immigration application. Roberto Antonio Garay Saravia is a retired military officer from the Salvadoran Armed Forces, who during his active duty was involved in multiple operations, including the El Mozote Massacre, where more than 1,000 civilian adults and children were killed. 

“Individuals who have committed atrocities overseas will not find safe haven in the United States,” said Deputy Secretary of Homeland Security John K. Tien. “ICE works tirelessly to identify human rights violators and bring them to justice. I commend the agents and officers who carried out this investigation for their commitment to enforcing our immigration laws and protecting our national security.” 

“Individuals involved in heinous actions such as extrajudicial killings will not be permitted to remain in the United States,” said ERO Newark Field Office Director John Tsoukaris. “We will maintain the integrity of our immigration laws and hold accountable those who violate them.” 

From 1981 to 1985, Garay Saravia was a section commander in a specialized counterinsurgency unit known as the Atlacatl Battalion, which has been directly implicated in numerous atrocities, to include a December 1981 operation now known as the El Mozote Massacre, in which more than 1,000 civilians, over half of whom were children, were killed. Garay Saravia was also deployed in three other operations in El Salvador that resulted in the massacres of hundreds of noncombatant civilians. 

The investigation was initiated and developed by HSI’s Human Rights Violators & War Crimes Center (HRVWCC). HSI San Salvador and the HRVWCC obtained evidence related to the human rights violations. OPLA-Newark and OPLA-Philadelphia will prosecute the case. "