Monday, March 09, 2009
Although Ciudad Juarez and El Paso, Texas are separated by the US-Mexico border, the two cities compose one of the largest bi-national metropolitan areas in the world. Before the end of 1848 U.S.-Mexican war, they were the same town, El Paso del Norte. Although they have seen been broken up to form two cities, each day 60,000 still people travel between these two cities.
Despite their proximity, reality is much different depending on which side of the fence you live on. Although Ciudad Juarez’s economy has been doing well in recent years, violence has escalated. Beginning with the brutal killings of more than 400 women and children since 1993 in what has been deemed by some as a “feminicide,” violence has been rising in the area. A recent surge in violence has left 350 people dead in Ciudad Juarez this year alone and 1,000 across the country. Last year, the drug violence was so brutal that 6,290 people lost their lives in Mexico. This article explains the situation in the morgues in Ciudad Juarez, which has gotten so bad that the morgue is forced to turn corpses away: http://www.google.com/hostednews/ap/article/ALeqM5hQk0IcGHRThAZGok6vKI4lrnPasQD96Q0D7G0.
As the violence continues to increase, more and more people are coming to El Paso to seek asylum in the US. According to a BBC article, “Drug-related violence in Mexico has become so extreme that some policemen and journalists would rather sit in a cell at a US immigration detention centre than run the risk of being caught in the crossfire between rival gangs in their home country.” One journalist who is currently living in El Paso on temporary visa notes that, “I would prefer seven months in jail because it’s a matter of life and death.”
The asylum cases that we are working on involve people from countries that are located far away from the United States, in some cases half way around the globe. Fleeing from land only separated from the US by a fence, these asylum seekers from Ciudad Juarez are a large contrast to what we have seen.
My question is whether the asylum process should be different for them or does it not matter if the asylum seekers comes from .01 miles outside the US or 10,000 miles? To me, I think that we need to pay special attention and give consideration to our neighbors in this process. In addition, the US should continue its effort to control the drug war in Mexico. Along with the obvious concern that the violence could spill over to US soil, it’s impossible not to see what is going on there. As Ciudad Juarez is physically visible from the United States, I hope that we do not turn a blind eye to the situation there.