Publisher: KHOU, Houston, Texas
Author: by Angela Kocherga
Story date: 16/01/2014
EL PASO, Texas Mexican citizens seeking asylum in the U.S because of violence back home are getting support from an unusual place: Mexico's Congress.
Mexican lawmakers passed a resolution calling on the U.S. government to facilitate asylum cases.
"This is a game changer," said Carlos Spector, an attorney at his El Paso office in a room packed with people he has represented in asylum cases.
"This is the first time in the history of a country that we know of that a Congress has come out and said facilitate the asylum claims of our citizens because we are incapable of defending them," said Spector.
Senator Maria de Guadalupe Calderon Hinojosa introduced the resolution. She is the sister of former president Felipe Calderon.
Many of the asylum seekers left Mexico as violence soared during his administration but others are recent victims including U.S. citizens who lived in Mexico or have relatives on both sides of the border.
"I was injured by seven gunshots, "said Adriana Olivas Cervantes, wiping away tears.
She's a mother of five. Her four surviving children are U.S. citizens
Cervantes says gunmen killed her husband and 18 year old son. The attack happened after they discovered a mass grave on the outskirts of Ciudad Juarez in 2011 while loading dirt into a truck for a construction job.
Cervantes survived and as soon as she could leave the hospital in Ciudad Juarez, her daughter took her took the international bridge where Cervantes asked for asylum in 2011.
"Everybody thinks it's getting better. It's not. It just gets hidden better, " said Lorena Acosta. She's a 5th grade teacher, mother of three young children and U.S. citizen.
Her husband was shot and killed in the Valley of Juarez October 13. Relatives say corrupt cops burst into the family home in Mexico saying they were searching for a gun.
"Upon entering the officers started immediately firing their guns and shot my husband in 3 times in the head," said Acosta.
Her husband's twin brother and uncle say they saw officers toss his body in the back of a truck. They said they were forced into the same truck and driven to an isolated area where officers buried the body and beat the pair.
"They were hit on the head with the butt of a gun, threatened and they are alive to recount it," said Guadalupe Estrella, the wife of the surviving twin brother.
Once released the man and his uncle fled Mexico and crossed the international bridge to Texas where they asked for asylum.
"They had no ability to fight back. There is no law there. But they have been detained as if they did something wrong," said Estella.
Her husband Israel Chavez and his uncle, Efrain Chavez are in the El Paso immigration detention center while they wait for a decision on their asylum cases.
"If my husband and his uncle go back, they're automatically dead," said Estrella who works as a nurse in New Mexico.
Mexico's Senate was inspired to pass the resolution supporting asylum seekers in the U.S. by a Mexican business owner's "Pedaling for Justice" bike ride across Texas in November. He has two prosthetic legs.
Carlos Gutierrez fled Mexico and sought asylum in the U.S. after cartel criminals cut off his legs at the knee when he stopped paying extortion fees.
The resolution recognizes Gutierrez's effort as a member of the organization Mexicans in Exile, " "He looks to create awareness of the corruption that exists in Mexico as well as sensitizing the government of the United States of America which has rejected over 90 percent of political asylum claims."
The Mexicans in Exile organization is now encouraging lawmakers in both countries to hold bi national congressional hearings on the border to examine violence in Mexico and the asylum process in the U.S.
"Our families require justice, peace and the ability to recover from this," said Estrella.
Refugees Global Press Review
Compiled by Media Relations and Public Information Service, UNHCR
For UNHCR Internal Distribution