Helping the Mexican Asylum Seekers

By: Daniel Nardini

Lawndale News Chicago's Bilingual Newspaper - Commentary The number of Mexicans seeking asylum in the United States is increasing as the brutal drug war turns ever more brutal. With over 40,000 people dead (and that number may be an under-estimate), and the drug cartels more powerful than ever, the Mexican government’s pledge of trying to protect its own people is beginning to ring hollow to the average Mexican. Worse, for those Mexicans who have gotten on the cartels’ hit list their lives are not worth a peso. And relocating or hiding in Mexico has little or no effect—like any guerrilla movement the cartels have infiltrated the local police and authorities and have networks of spies in every state so they will eventually find their victims.

Essentially anyone who criticizes the cartels is murdered. Anyone who stands up for justice against the cartels is murdered. Anyone who reports of what the cartels do is murdered. And finally,whole families are murdered by the cartels in revenge for anyone who stands up to them. Some associate I know in El Paso mentioned to me that Mexican soldiers from Chihuahua state are regularly flown to U.S. hospitals to recover because the cartels would track them down and kill these soldiers in Mexican hospitals. If the Mexican government is having trouble protecting its own soldiers, then how can it adequately defend its own people? And yet, the U.S. government almost never grants asylum to Mexicans fleeing to this country from the cartels.

Why is this? According to U.S. immigration law, asylum seekers must meet five criteria for being eligible for asylum. These five criteria are: being targeted by a government for persecution, being persecuted for your race, being persecuted for your religion, being persecuted for your political ideas, and being persecuted because of association of someone who is being persecuted. Mexican nationals fleeing the cartels are seen as victims of crime and little more. However, it is being argued that Mexicans can easily fit into being persecuted by powerful criminal narco-guerrilla forces on the basis of guilt by association with someone on the cartels’ hit list, or for speaking out against the cartels (political and religious convictions). These things can fit the definitions for who can be given asylum. And one thing is for sure—many of these people fleeing Mexico are getting out for reasons other than economic. Most of them are journalists, lawyers, rich families, and even former police who know they cannot stay or they will be killed.

But why does the U.S. government only grant asylum to two percent of all Mexicans who apply for it (as opposed to 38 percent for Chinese asylum applicants? Of course, the Chinese applicants certainly deserve asylum considering what the Chinese government is)? The main reason is because the U.S. government is deferring to the Mexican government in trying to maintain the fiction that the Mexican government can handle the situation. I wish that was true. The cartels have not only shown that they can fight the government in open battles but have been expanding their operations into neighboring countries like the United States and Guatemala. Unlike Colombia, where the U.S. government acknowledged that the FARC guerrilla movement there was indeed a life and death threat to the Colombian government, the U.S. government will not do the same with those marked by the cartels means that Mexicans will be given asylum in very low numbers. This must change. This country must recognize that the narc-guerrilla war in Mexico is a real war like it was in Colombia. But regardless of what the U.S. government does there will still be thousands of Mexicans who will seek asylum in the United States to escape a fate worse than death.

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