Mexican Man Who Fought Drug Cartels Beats Odds & Stays In U.S.
He never aspired to anything heroic. But he is proud of always maintaining his integrity and moral values. And as he witnessed his country crumbling due to the growing power and influence of drug cartels, he realized he could put his knowledge and expertise to help his government fight organized crime.
He still doesn’t regret the decision, but there were many moments he wasn’t even sure he’d live to tell it.
“The truth is that I’m free, I’m safe. That’s the main thing,” said the 44-year-old Mexican citizen, who agreed to tell his story only if he remains anonymous.
Not even specifics about his line of work in Mexico can be revealed. But because he was well known in Mexico for assisting law enforcement, he believes if his identity or current whereabouts are disclosed, he will be killed.
He speaks from experience. It all started with what he naively thought were empty threats.
“They were telling me we’re going to fry your balls, we’re gonna kill you,” he said matter-of-factly.
He survived four assassination attempts, including a kidnapping. They took their toll.
“There’s no way to describe it, the feeling that you have when they are telling you that you’re going to die,” he said. “You know your life is in their hands. So I was begging. Begging for my life.”
It was in such grisly detail that he described his tale of survival in a federal immigration court in Texas last month.
To the layman, it could seem like an open and shut case — the man should get asylum or he’d get killed if sent back to Mexico.
But many lawyers refused to take his case. That’s because he has a prior deportation on his record, so he had to meet an even higher threshold of proof to meet asylum eligibility requirements. In the end, the immigration judge was convinced.
Texas attorney Juan Gonzalez represented him in court, agreeing to take his case after being convinced he could amass plenty of documentation.
“I think that’s what the judge saw,” Gonzalez said. “That this individual was working with law enforcement, but not working for, or could be identified as, law enforcement.”
The difference may be subtle, but it has tremendous legal implications. The vast majority of asylum cases involving Mexican law enforcement officers have been rejected.
William Humble represented a former Juárez cop who applied for asylum in Dallas in January and was turned down.
“Government attorneys are opposed to these cases and the judges are persuaded by that opposition,” Humble said. “The line of reasoning goes like this: The harm that you suffered in Mexico is not persecution. It’s the life you chose when you signed up to be a police officer.”
That’s what makes this latest case so unique. In an unprecedented move, the judge approved the application based on social group status — anybody working with Mexican law enforcement to combat organized crime. That means a new door is now open for others, such as military contract drivers and suppliers, or private investigators hired to assist government agents.
“It gives hope to other people that if they have the same kind of facts they may be able to win asylum or other relief in the United States,” said Steven Yale-Loehr, a professor at Cornell University Law School.
But the ruling may set a precedent opposed by federal officials. Yale-Loehr said it’s no coincidence that the approval rate for Mexican asylum seekers has always been extremely low.
“We fear that if we give too many people asylum from Mexico, we’ll start a flood of people trying to come into this country,” he said.
Publicly, at least, the Dep't. of Homeland Security (DHS) is not talking about the Texas case. Prosecutors declined to comment, citing ongoing litigation. It remains unknown if they will appeal the ruling.
Meanwhile, the Mexican man who won the case is joyous he gets to remain safe north of the border. But there’s nothing more he would like than to erase the recent nightmarish years and start over back home.
“I hope and I pray things in Mexico change,” he said. “It’s not going to be easy. But I hope it happens one day. Then I can go back to my country.”