Although Salvadoran advocates in Houston are mainly focusing on existing asylum rules, Lopez and some other immigrants say that the real reason Salvadorans should be allowed to stay is more subtle -- and much simpler -- than the issues addressed by asylum law. And that reason is that the Salvadoran war lasted so long that many of the immigrants who originally came to the U.S. in search of temporary safety have established roots in their new country. They've become as much Americans as Salvadorans, and making them go back to El Salvador wouldn't necessarily be sending them home, it could well be taking them away from home.
"Even I have my differences with other advocates about that issue," admits Lopez, himself an immigrant who fled army death threats in the 1980s. Important as it may be, "it's not just the political situation" at issue, he says. "Salvadorans here in the last 12 years have become established. They feel, 'Now that I'm a legal resident, I want to stay.'