EL PASO, Texas (Border Report) – El Paso attorney Carlos Spector has been telling immigration judges for decades that the fear of persecution expressed by Mexican asylum seekers is real.
That’s because of collusion in some places between organized criminal gangs, police and government officials at every level. “Most of the cases I’ve handled is people fleeing kidnapping, extortion, (the fear of) homicide. […] Fleeing violence does not guarantee asylum, but when the crime is committed in complicity with a local, state or federal authority, that is authorized crime.”
Spector often called on Mexico expert and University of Texas research fellow Samuel Schmidt to explain the concept to the judges. That collaboration led to Spector winning some asylum cases on behalf of his clients and Schmidt writing a book.
The two presented “Authorized Crime” during an online forum this week to coincide with the 10th year anniversary of the murder of Marisela Escobedo. She is a mother who in 2010 was shot to death in front of the Chihuahua state government building while protesting the release of her daughter’s killer from jail.
Spector in 2015 won asylum for Juan Fraire Escobedo, one of the slain activist’s children.
“Marisela is an iconic case because she was a successful businesswoman who had to become an activist, a (detective) to find her daughter’s murderer only to see the state free him even after he confessed his culpability in court,” Schmidt said. “She (protests) the inaction of the state until she herself is murdered on the steps of a government building.”
Frairie, who became the family’s spokesman in seeking justice for his mother and his sister, received threats and fled the country. The alleged murderer was killed years later in an unrelated clash with the Mexican military and the government closed the case.
“Crime is being authorized by tolerance, by omission, by many different forms of a relationship between criminals and the state,” Schmidt said. “It’s not only the violence, the persecution that expels people from (Mexico), but also this relationship that undermines the rule of law” and leaves people vulnerable.
Schmidt said there are plenty of instances of police officers working for drug traffickers, of judges taking bribes to free criminals and of criminals running their gangs and going after victims from inside their jail cells.
He recalled one asylum case where the evidence included images of a cellphone in a criminal’s cell clearly showing his mobile network being the Mexican Army’s channel.
Schmidt and Spector said that U.S. immigration judges sometimes point to the arrest or extradition of prominent criminals as proof that things are changing in Mexico and maybe the asylum seeker’s fears are exaggerated.
But Schmidt says not much has changed.
“You may say, ‘Chapo (Guzman) is now in jail or ‘Chapo has been extradited.’ But then you see (drug lord) Rafael Caro Quintero being let go from jail before his sentence is over. You see the number of people killed in Mexico being the highest in four, five years. You see how much drugs the cartels are still sending to the U.S. […] It’s not an anomaly, it’s not an accident. It is a structural problem.”
The book is available through Me Gusta Leer.