Mexican drug violence creating new “refugees”

Whew!  The Miami Herald reports today that escalating drug-related violence is creating a whole new group of asylum seekers— Mexicans!

José Jiménez, a Mexican mechanic, is now doing odd jobs in an American town after escaping a violent northern Mexican city where drug traffickers threatened to kill him when he refused to build secret compartments in tractor trailers to hide U.S.-bound drug shipments.

He’s hoping the U.S. immigration system can keep him alive — and he’s not alone.

He is one of a growing number of Mexicans receiving asylum in the United States, where until recently most Mexican immigrants had sought work permits. But the escalating drug war violence south of the border over the last four years has prompted immigration judges and federal asylum officers to approve more Mexican asylum petitions.

“I definitely feel safer now,” Jiménez said. “But I’m still nervous. These criminals have resources and contacts everywhere.”

Jiménez, 49, is one of the first Mexican refugees to share his story. He is also the first with a known South Florida connection.

All such asylum claims were rejected in the early 1990’s.

In the past, asylum claims from Mexicans were typically rejected because judges and asylum officers deemed them fraudulent or frivolous. It’s only in the last five years that authorities have taken a different view.

In fiscal year 2008, asylum officers and immigration judges combined approved 250 Mexican asylum petitions compared to 153 the previous year and 133 in 2006 — the formal start of the war on drugs launched by Mexican President Felipe Calderón. Separate figures from U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services show an increase in Mexican asylum case approvals from fiscal year 2007 to 2008 — 146 to 264 — but a decrease to 249 in the first 11 months of fiscal year 2009. USCIS cases often cover more than one person.

Though still relatively small compared to the number of asylum petitions from other countries, Mexican asylum approvals are significant when you consider that virtually all were were denied in the early 1990s. The majority of new asylum applicants are former police officers, lawyers and journalists.

In the United States, asylum seekers can file petitions with U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services whose asylum officers then decide the case. If approved, the asylum-seeker is granted a green card. If not, the case is referred to immigration court where a judge decides the case. If the judge rejects the case, the petitioner could be deported.

Doesn’t this open the door to any claims due to violence anywhere in the world?

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