Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Mexican police officials are seeking asylum in U.S.

Javier Emilio Pérez Ortega had built his career on the law, but has lost faith in his country's ability to enforce it. Ortega served four months as police chief in Puerto Palomas, Mexico, enduring death threats from drug smugglers and watching his entire police force resign en masse.

In March, Pérez arrived at the international border crossing with the United States, seeking political asylum. He is one of three Mexican municipal police chiefs to do so the past several months.

U.S. immigration law does make exceptions for persecution by non-state actors if asylum seekers can provide evidence that their government can't or won't intervene. But in Mexico, a new president has spent much of his first 18-months in office battling drug cartels. The narcotics traffickers have fought back, focusing on law enforcement officials.

Since January 2008, 25 officers have been killed in suspected drug-related violence nationwide. Edgar Millán Goméz, the head of the nation's federal police force, was assassinated May 8 at his home in Mexico City. More than 300 officers died in 2007.

Pérez remains in the custody of U.S. Immigrations and Customs Enforcement while his case is under review. He hopes to move his family to the United States soon. Puerto Palomas has already hired a replacement police chief.

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