“Carecen is the most important anchor organization in our region for Central Americans and, more importantly, Salvadoran immigrants,” said Lori Kaplan, executive director of the Latin American Youth Center in Washington.
“Without Carecen and Saul’s leadership, many of our Salvadoran residents would not have had a pathway to citizenship, would not have had access to affordable housing and would not have been able to get the services and support that Carecen provides them,” Kaplan said. “Saul’s long-term leadership was critical to the strength of Carecen and its ability to help thousands of people over the last several decades.”
Mr. Solorzano helped expand Carecen’s mission from helping immigrants seek political asylum to helping them become permanent residents and U.S. citizens.
In addition to promoting civic engagement and economic development among the region’s tens of thousands of Salvadorans, Mr. Solorzano helped advocate successfully for legislation that sought to improve the immigration prospects of Central Americans, particularly refugees.
Most of the measures were imperfect, he said, but provided “a window of opportunity to help people find a permanent solution.”
Mr. Solorzano was one of the roughly 1 million Salvadorans who fled to the United States and neighboring countries during a 12-year civil war between violent leftist guerillas and a U.S.-backed military regime that engaged in human rights abuses.
Before a truce in 1992, an estimated 75,000 Salvadorans died. Countless families were torn apart.
Carecen was formed in 1981 to address the compelling needs of a generation of Salvadorans who found themselves in the Washington area after being granted temporary refugee status because of the war. Many lacked the skills or resources to find housing, jobs and health care.
Long involved in aiding refugees, Mr. Solorzano joined Carecen in the early 1990s. He battled strong political forces intent on curbing immigration under any circumstances, including an effort by some in Congress to end a 1990 program that offered temporary refugee status to Salvadorans during the civil war.
“In El Salvador, they came here because five factions were going in and chopping each other to pieces,” then-Sen. Alan K. Simpson (R-Wyo.) said on the Senate floor in 1994, soon before he was poised to become chairman of an immigration subcommittee. “And now that is all over. You have democratic elections. Have one of them gone back? Not one.”