By On the occasion of our 20th anniversary
By Gustavo Arellano
By R. Scott Moxley
By Alfonso Delgado
By Courtney Hamilton
By Joel Beers
By Peter Maguire
By Charles Lam
* * *
A businessman crosses the bridge from Ciudad Juárez to El Paso. The state police came to his business. He could not meet their increased extortion demands, so they held him down in front of his friends and cut his feet off. Now he rolls across the bridge, his mother driving him to safety. He seeks asylum. He calls Carlos Spector's law firm. He enters a system worthy of Franz Kafka.
Of the 20,000 U.S. grants of political asylum in 2010, only 192 were for Mexicans. Most such applicants arrive at the line with no money or papers. Many are cast into the gulag of U.S. immigration prisons for months or even years. If released, they are unlikely to be allowed a work permit for months. If entered into the process for political asylum, they could wait years for a hearing. No Mexican is likely to apply unless death stares him or her in the face. Political asylum is not some tactic Mexicans use to game our system. But it is a test of our claims of being for freedom and justice and elemental human rights.
After the spate of killings in Guadalupe, fliers circulated saying, "Si no se van del pueblo, les pasarán lo mismo que los Reyes Salazar" ("If you don't leave town, you will get the same as the Reyes Salazars"). Most of the Reyes family still waits to have their pleas for asylum heard. The doors to their country have closed forever behind them. A surviving sister, Marisela Reyes, says, "Nuestro nombre en Mexico significa la muerte" ("Our name in Mexico means death").
* * *
There is a rhythm to state terrorism in Mexico. First, there are threats, such as the footsteps clearly heard by Miguel's father in the days preceding the slaughter of the family. Then, there is the killing itself, the indifference of the police, the pious laments of government officials. Then, more terror, such as his father's partner, Yolanda, being decapitated, such as Miguel's fellow photographers winding up dismembered in garbage bags. And finally, if one refuses to follow the rules, there is the destruction of a person's reputation. This last stroke is inevitable if the person speaks out about the nature of the Mexican government.
Miguel speaks out at a forum in Austin, Texas, in late May 2012 about the controlled nature of the Mexican press and state-sponsored terror in Veracruz. He repeats the same things a week later at an El Paso press conference with Carlos Spector.
Two days later, Notiver, the paper to which his father devoted his life, announces that the son never really worked there but was simply kept around as a kind of pet because of his father. They say Miguel could solve the murder because he probably knows who killed his family. They imply that he is an informant for the DEA or the FBI—a dangerous allegation in Mexico. Proceso, the influential news magazine, repeats most of the charges without any questions. The charges are all lies or smears. But that hardly matters.
Miguel is no longer simply an exile. He is no longer a victim. He is dirty, likely a criminal, never a real part of the press and hardly eligible for political asylum if he was never even a reporter. Now he is the basic Mexican, a person vilified if he complains about the fist of the state in his face. And Miguel and Vanessa are among the lucky few who just might qualify for political asylum in the United States. For the millions living in terror of the Mexican government and of Mexican drug gangs, there is no such hope.
Sara Salazar spoke about her family at a press conference in El Paso on Feb. 8, 2012, the anniversary of the kidnapping and murders of Elias, Luisa and Magdalena Reyes:
"My family were always hard workers, honorable, always helping the poor. Our hard struggle began when the soldiers came into our houses looking for weapons, drugs and other things they said we had but they never found. But they kept on persecuting us because we got in their way. . . . My daughter Josefina denounced them . . . and they persecuted her to the death. We continued to protest, but what could we do, since it was the government that was after us? We got in their way. . . . I had 10 children, and only four of them are left. They have killed them all. And what can I do? I have gone to demand that they find who killed them, but the files are nothing but blank pages. They have done nothing. We have no protection in Mexico. No protection. This is all I can say to you. Now my heart is dry."