“Refugees and Immigration Court”
Mexico continues to burn as I wrote in “A Hispanic View: Is Mexico Burning?” (Amazon Kindle, 2010) and in a novel “Juniors” (Amazon Kindle, 2010) with thousands more people murdered in the ongoing war between Mexican drug cartels, the government of Mexico and new citizen militias.
Armed Mexicans are familiar to Americans who observed Mexicans fighting a century ago between various revolutionary groups (E.G. Pancho Villa’s Division del Norte and Emiliano Zapata’s Army of Liberation) and dictatorships and their military. Many Hollywood movies have chronicled armed Mexican conflicts and they will continue for the conflicts continue.
An estimated 150,000 Mexicans have died in recent years in the triangular war between Mexican government forces and well-armed organized drug cartels that function as criminal pseudo-states.
Not all of the estimated 150,000 dead victims of the drug violence are innocent bystanders, certainly, but many are because the government of Mexico cannot control the conflict. Reasons might be, the government is outgunned by cartels rich with drug proceeds to buy the most modern weaponry; or, government leaders and employees are simply bought off by the rich cartels, or the government avoids the conflict because cowardly as an institution. Outgunned and corruption are the best answers as to why Mexico cannot win the war.
President Felipe Calderon (2006-12) declared war on the cartels in 2006 and ordered the Mexican Army into the field. This writer was on Tijuana’s famous Revolucion Avenue when the Army moved into Mexico’s sixth largest city in full combat gear. The heavily corrupted city police were relieved of their weapons and the Army patrolled the streets.
The Army came because Tijuana’s drug cartel (The Felix Arrellano family) had so many federal and state police on its payroll that blazing shootouts occurred on the main street (Revolucion/Agua Caliente) between federal and state police hired to guard or hijack drug shipments. Crusading journalists were assassinated by gunmen on the payroll of a future PRI mayor of Tijuana. They went to jail and their boss went on to win election to the mayor’s office.
The drug gangs weren’t impressed by soldiers patrolling the streets. Tourists were frightened off and Tijuana’s economy was hit hard. Ordinary Mexicans suffered.
Then came, the ZETAS…Former Mexican Army officers organized former Army men into a gang named Los Zetas, The Zeroes, who morphed into a cartel and fought with all the other gangs and the government. Drug income wasn’t enough; Los Zetas decided kidnapping and ransom were easier than fighting drug rivals. This criminal enterprise has had unintentional consequences on the U.S.A. that few imagined when asylum laws/rules were promulgated by the U.S. government to welcome refugees.
Example: 17 members of a Mexican family presented themselves to United States border officials at the busy San Diego/San Ysidro entry asking for asylum. Ranging in age from 4 months on up they claimed to be victims of Los Zetas in the southern Mexican state of Guerrero (Acapulco). Despite, they say, several family members being kidnapped and/or murdered and beheaded, the Mexican local and state authorities could not or refused to protect them from the gang.
Local village militias were organized to protect those the authorities refused to protect. That brought federal attention but not aimed at the criminal gangs but at the local Mexicans who armed themselves to fight off the gangs.
The family fled to the United States, all 17 of them. No one knows why they were targeted by Los Zetas for these were poor fisherman and had few resources. The family’s patriarch was kidnapped, beaten, tortured and a $100,000 peso ransom was demanded. The gang released him after he promised to join them in their criminal activity. It was when he returned to his home that he discovered his brother-in-law had been murdered and beheaded, his father-in-law had died from gunshot wounds suffered during the kidnapping and that his wife had reported all this to the local police and they did nothing.
The Center for International Policy Americas reports that “human rights organizations (in Guerrero) believe that the government’s refusal to investigate kidnappings and disappearances indicates that it may be afraid that thorough investigations would uncover government corruption and complicity with organized crime.”
Asylum requires that an individual must prove he/she is a member of a group being persecuted, threatened or harmed because they are a member of a group (race, ethnicity, etc.). In this case the entire family (identifiable group) was attacked and if they are sent back to Mexico will undoubtedly be attacked again. Torture, beatings and beheadings are in their Mexican future if Immigration Court decides to send them back. They have a “well-rounded fear of persecution” by Los Zetas and by a government that turns a blind eye towards the gang because they have already suffered torture, beheadings and murder.
The Mexican drug wars injure or kill unprotected innocent civilians and force many to flee their country to the safety of the United States ironically from where the money to finance the drug cartels and their criminal enterprises comes from. They ask for asylum. If they don’t get it, they will be sent back to the drug wars and probably die.
It is all up to an American immigration court and judge and our core characteristics.
Contreras formerly wrote for
the New American News Service
of the New York Times