Columban missionaries in Juarez, Mexico and El Paso, Texas have seen the impacts of the drug wars waging along the U.S.-Mexico border for years. Drug trafficking in Mexico is an extremely profitable but dangerous business. There is deadly violence between cartels for competition, between cartels and law enforcement, and between cartels and the public as a means of demonstrating power and control. When President Felipe Calderon took office in late 2006, he began a military assault on drug cartels. Over the last 5 years, the war on drugs in Mexico has resulted in a breakdown in security. The dramatic escalation of violence has claimed the lives of more than 60,000 people and continues to threaten the livelihood of hundreds of thousands more. The pages of newspapers are filled with reports of kidnappings, extortion demands, business and medical clinic closures, massacres at treatment centers and youth gatherings, and complaints of human rights violations by military and security forces. The increase in violence has made Ciudad Juarez one of the world’s most dangerous cities for the last three years.
Such distress has caused tens of thousands of Mexican nationals to escape to the United States in hopes of gaining asylum, so they can remain safely and legally in the United States. The Executive Office for Immigration Review reports that since the outbreak of the drug-related violence in 2006, it has granted political asylum to less than 2% of all Mexican applicants. By comparison, in the same time period, the United States approved nearly 40% of applications received from Colombians. The disparity of these figures raises grave concerns that the political asylum process is once again being politicized so as to deny credible asylum consideration to Mexican nationals fleeing the violence in Mexico.
In Spring 2011, the Columban Center for Advocacy and Outreach began working with members of Congress to draft a letter to the Consul General, located in Juarez, asking him to restore credibility to the asylum process by considering Mexican applicants more seriously and equitably. Though it has been a slow process, we have been faithful to aiding the residents of Mexico. Once the letter is finalized, we will be working with members of Congress and our colleague organizations to ask other members of Congress to endorse the letter. Watch for updates on the status of the letter in coming months!