In recent months immigration judges have granted refuge to a small but emerging number of Mexicans fleeing drug-related violence, particularly in South Texas, as described in a recent CIR report published in the Los Angeles Times.
Anthony Matulewicz, an immigration attorney in Edinburg, Texas, said he has won two such cases, including asylum for a kidnapped businessman and refuge for a drug informant who was threatened by a Mexican federal officer.
Another man from Matamoros, Mexico, across the border from Brownsville, Texas, was given refuge after showing that because he’d refused a local drug lord’s request to store drugs and weapons in his home, he’d been threatened, abducted and beaten by police officers who worked for the trafficker, said Henry Cruz, the man’s attorney. The attorneys asked that their clients’ identity not be disclosed for safety reasons.
Warring drug cartels and corrupted police forces have led to a decline in public security in cities such as Juarez and Tijuana, as CIR recently reported for The Nation. This, in turn, has led to a new class of Mexican refugees fleeing drug violence and lawlessness for safe haven in the United States, as a joint CIR-LA Times collaboration highlighted in March.
An increasing number of Mexicans have arrived at U.S. border crossing points to ask for asylum, including nearly 200 last year. But, they have a hard case to make, as the San Antonio Express also recently reported.
In U.S. immigration courts, there were only 71 asylum grants, while the courts received more than 3,000 such cases. The majority of Mexican asylum claims in the courts are withdrawn or abandoned. Immigration officials say they don’t know how many of those asylum seekers are fleeing drug violence or related lawlessness, because the asylum process is confidential.
Drug cartels are battling over trafficking routes, fighting internal power struggles or retaliating against federal police or the Mexican military. The drug gangs have backed up their increasingly public threats, such as hanging banners with the names of targeted officers or sending warnings through police radio signals, with gruesome displays of violence.
Nearly 11,000 people have been killed in Mexico since President Felipe Calderon launched an offensive against Mexico’s powerful drug cartels shortly after taking office in December 2006. Calderon has deployed some 45,000 troops around the country.
Since 2007, drug violence has claimed the lives of about 900 Mexican police officers — nearly 500 last year alone. Some had ties — real or perceived — to drug traffickers. Many were targeted out of revenge. And in some cases police officers were killed by turn-coat colleagues. The drug-related killings include the top federal police officer in Mexico, numerous police chiefs along the border and seven police officers in a single-day spree in Tijuana in late April.
Other police officers and chiefs have quit their jobs, such as Juarez police Chief Robert Orduna who resigned in February after a drug gang threatened to kill a police officer every 48 hours until he quit.