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Asylum approvals for Mexicans on the Rise

U.S. immigration authorities are approving more and more asylum petitions from Mexican citizens who fear for their lives as the country’s drug violence escalates.


José Jiménez, a Mexican mechanic, is now doing odd jobs in an American town after escaping a violent northern Mexican city where drug traffickers threatened to kill him when he refused to build secret compartments in tractor trailers to hide U.S.-bound drug shipments.

He’s hoping the U.S. immigration system can keep him alive — and he’s not alone.

He is one of a growing number of Mexicans receiving asylum in the United States, where until recently most Mexican immigrants had sought work permits. But the escalating drug war violence south of the border over the last four years has prompted immigration judges and federal asylum officers to approve more Mexican asylum petitions.

“I definitely feel safer now,” Jiménez said. “But I’m still nervous. These criminals have resources and contacts everywhere.”

Jiménez, 49, is one of the first Mexican refugees to share his story. He is also the first with a known South Florida connection.

“Mexico has become the single most dangerous country in Latin America,” said Jiménez’s lawyer, Wilfredo Allen, a prominent Miami immigration attorney.

VIOLENCEA Mexican government official, who did not want to be named, dismissed Allen’s assertion, saying violence in Mexico is affecting a limited number of areas.

“Without trying to minimize the challenges we have, and without trying to point the finger at other countries, I would say the levels of violence in Mexico are lower than those we had 10 years ago or earlier, in relative terms,” the official said. “Most of the violence we are experiencing in Mexico is focused on a few cities, most of them along the border with the United States.”

In the past, asylum claims from Mexicans were typically rejected because judges and asylum officers deemed them fraudulent or frivolous. It’s only in the last five years that authorities have taken a different view.

In fiscal year 2008, asylum officers and immigration judges combined approved 250 Mexican asylum petitions compared to 153 the previous year and 133 in 2006 — the formal start of the war on drugs launched by Mexican President Felipe Calderón. Separate figures from U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services show an increase in Mexican asylum case approvals from fiscal year 2007 to 2008 — 146 to 264 — but a decrease to 249 in the first 11 months of fiscal year 2009. USCIS cases often cover more than one person.

Though still relatively small compared to the number of asylum petitions from other countries, Mexican asylum approvals are significant when you consider that virtually all were were denied in the early 1990s. The majority of new asylum applicants are former police officers, lawyers and journalists.

In the United States, asylum seekers can file petitions with U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services whose asylum officers then decide the case. If approved, the asylum-seeker is granted a green card. If not, the case is referred to immigration court where a judge decides the case. If the judge rejects the case, the petitioner could be deported.

Jiménez, the Mexican mechanic, filed his asylum petition with USCIS last month. He and his attorney are scheduled to present the case to an asylum officer later this month.

Jiménez talked about his experience Thursday. El Nuevo Herald agreed not to print his full name or the names of the Mexican city he fled and the Midwest city and state where he now lives.

EYEWITNESSJiménez’s plight began in northern Mexico in 2008, when some customers whose cars he had been fixing asked him to repair a tractor trailer parked at one of their homes.

He agreed, but when he got to the address he saw “something that didn’t quite seem legal.” When he declined to do the job and tried to leave, the men told him he couldn’t because he already knew too much.

Jiménez would not say precisely what he saw, but suggested it was a drug shipment being loaded onto a truck. “One of the men said, `Well, you already saw what you saw and you saw too much. If you try to leave, you will pay with your life.’ I had no choice but to stay. They took me to see another man who was the boss,” he said.

The boss accused Jiménez of being a government spy and told him he would be killed if he did not help the group by building secret compartments inside trucks where drugs could be hidden.

Jiménez said the men also threatened to kill family members and that they had a surprising amount of his personal information, including his home address and the names of relatives. His wife and three children, however, were already living in the Midwest and the drug traffickers did not mention them.

Jiménez agreed to assist, but said he never finished the job. He said they let him go home after a few days, but threatened to kill a teenager who worked at his garage if he did not return.

He said leaders of the criminal organization summoned him one day to complain that he had done a poor job because some of the trucks had been stopped by authorities who discovered the drugs.

They asked him to do a better job. He said he refused, and a short time later a man came to see him and told him: “You are not leaving us. Tomorrow or day after tomorrow you will be killed.”

INTO HIDINGJiménez said he managed to leave and went into hiding. He then called a relative who worked for a local law enforcement agency, but the man said he could not help because he feared being killed if he told superiors about the case.

“Drug trafficking organizations have spies everywhere,” said Jiménez. “The local police departments are infiltrated and most local police officers are corrupt and working for drug traffickers.”

Over the years, he added, Mexican drug trafficking organizations have built their power by either recruiting willing participants or forcing others to work for them. “They seek people who have skills, like mechanics, engineers, doctors, computer experts, technicians, who can help them better smuggle drugs into the United States,” said Jiménez.

While in hiding, he said, drug traffickers called him on his cellphone and claimed they were close to finding him. He stayed in a different place every night and transferred between buses several times to get from one place to another.

It was during this time that a friend gave him the idea to flee Mexico. “He told me, `Your only hope is to go far, far away.’ ”

He decided to join his wife and children in the midwestern United States.

Jiménez said he had lived with his family there years earlier, before returning to Mexico and making a good living as a mechanic. In his case, Jiménez sent money to his family in the United States.

On March 1, 2009, Jiménez spent his last day in Mexico. He walked to the U.S. border, presented his passport to a U.S. Customs and Border Protection officer and was admitted as a tourist since he already had a U.S. visitor visa.

One of Jiménez’s sons awaited nearby in a car.

Jiménez said the man who told him he would be killed had once bragged that he was in charge of shipping cocaine and marijuana to South Florida.

“If they really wanted to track me down, they could,” he said.

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The Dream Begins: Immigration is accepting Deferred Action requests


Aretz & Heise Immigration applauds Immigration’s on-time implementation of the promised Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, originally announced on June 15, 2012.   While not a permanent fix, the deferred action initiative gives new hope to young people who qualify to live free from fear of deportation.  The guidelines, which can be found on our website at are seemingly straightforward, although there are a number of potential issues that may arise in a person’s request.

“This is a tremendous initiative on the part of DHS and USCIS, and a tremendous opportunity for young people who were brought to the United States; for many the United States is the only country they know,” said AILA President Laura Lichter.

Lichter continues, “there are potentially over a million young people eager to take a first step forward into a promising future. The best thing they can do is to educate themselves so they don’t get scammed. While many will be successful in requesting deferred action, immigration law is extremely complex. No one considering applying should do so without first consulting with qualified counsel, whether one-on-one with a lawyer, or through one of the many community programs providing immigration services or pro bono programs in which AILA lawyers throughout the country are participating.”

It is important to note that although Immigration has begun accepting requests, as of August 15, 2012, there is no deadline for filing!   Therefore, it is highly recommended to first review your case legally with a reputable attorney before submitting your case to Immigration.  “Having the right advocate on your side is absolutely essential,” Lichter said.

We look forward to USCIS conducting these reviews promptly and efficiently, but as of now, Immigation advises that the process will likely take “several months.”

For more information about this program and to review your eligiblity with experienced and caring immigration attorneys, call  Aretz & Heise Immigration TODAY at 303-495-2013.

DHS Announces Application Process for Deferred Action, IPC Provides Data on Where Eligible Individuals Reside

August 3, 2012 

Washington D.C. – Today, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) released important details about the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) process, which will temporarily allow some eligible youth to go to school and work without fear of deportation. A recent Immigration Policy Center (IPC) report, Who and Where the DREAMers Are: A Demographic Profile of Immigrants Who Might Benefit from the Obama Administration’s Deferred Action Initiative, provides the most detailed look to date at who is likely to benefit from the new program and where they are located in the country.

The IPC estimates that roughly 936,930 undocumented youth between the ages of 15 and 30 might immediately qualify to apply for the new program. The new report breaks down the deferred action-eligible population by nationality and age at the national and state level, as well as by congressional district.

Because potential applicants reside in all states and every congressional district, today’s announcement clarifying the application process sets the stage for an intense period of preparation around the country, as communities wait for the request form to be released on August 15. The DACA program is designed for young people who are under the age of 31; entered the United States before age 16; have resided in the country for at least five years as of June 15, 2012; have not been convicted of a felony, a “significant” misdemeanor, or three other misdemeanors; and are currently in school, graduated from high school, earned a GED, or served in the military.

Among the key points shared by USCIS:

– A new form will be available on August 15. All DACA requests will require payment of the standard $85 biometric fee, but no additional fee will be charged. Persons who wish to receive work authorization must pay, with limited exemptions, the current employment authorization document fee of $365.

– Information provided on the form will be kept confidential, including information relating to applicants’ family members or legal guardians, meaning it will not be used for immigration enforcement proceedings, unless the applicant meets current USCIS criteria for referral to Immigration and Customs Enforcement or issuance of a Notice to Appear (NTA) in immigration court.

– DHS will deem “significant” any misdemeanor, regardless of the sentence imposed, involving burglary, domestic violence, sexual abuse or exploitation, unlawful possession of firearms, driving under the influence, or drug distribution or trafficking. In addition, DHS will deem significant any other misdemeanor for which an applicant was sentenced to more than 90 days in jail, not including suspended sentences and time held pursuant to immigration detention.  Minor traffic offenses and convictions for immigration-related offenses classified as felonies or misdemeanors by state laws (e.g. Arizona SB 1070) will not be considered.

Most of the potential beneficiaries of deferred action live in large immigrant-receiving states like California and Texas, but many also reside in North Carolina, Georgia, Colorado, and Washington State, and nearly every state has a significant DREAMer population. Also, while nearly 70 percent of potential beneficiaries are from Mexico, there are significant populations from Central America, South America, the Caribbean, and Asia. In some states, such as Virginia, the population is quite diverse, with no single dominant nationality.

Knowing who the potential beneficiaries are and where they live will be critical as USCIS initiates this new program. Using this data, USCIS, as well as advocates offering assistance, can locate pockets of potential beneficiaries who may be living in geographic areas that are underserved or who may require information in languages that were unanticipated.

To read the USCIS Guidance and IPC report see:

Consideration of Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals Process (USCIS Website)

Who and Where the DREAMers Are: A Demographic Profile of Immigrants Who Might Benefit from the Obama Administration’s Deferred Action Initiative (IPC Fact Check, July 2012)

For press inquiries contact, Wendy Sefsaf at  202-812-2499  or

The Immigration Policy Center (IPC), established in 2003, is the policy arm of the American Immigration Council. IPC’s mission is to shape a rational conversation on immigration and immigrant integration. Through its research and analysis, IPC provides policymakers, the media, and the general public with accurate information about the role of immigrants and immigration policy on U.S. society. IPC reports and materials are widely disseminated and relied upon by press and policy makers. IPC staff regularly serves as experts to leaders on Capitol Hill, opinion-makers and the media. IPC is a non-partisan organization that neither supports nor opposes any political party or candidate for office.

 Division of the American Immigration Council.    

Criminal Immigration Prosecutions Are Down

Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse

The latest case-by-case data from the Justice Department show that the rate of criminal immigration prosecutions the government reported during the first three months of FY 2010 is down by 8.8 percent compared to quarterly figures for last year. If the prosecution pace continues at this rate for the rest of FY 2010, the number of criminal prosecutions will reach only 83,722 as compared with 91,899 during FY 2009. Driving this decline is a sharp 24 percent drop off in criminal prosecutions for illegal entry (8 USC 1325), a crime for which those convicted are rarely sentenced to any significant time in prison.

Read the complete report at: In addition to the most recent figures on immigration prosecutions, TRAC continues to provide free reports on other current enforcement trends.

Go to for information on Decmber 2009 convictions and prosecutions in the areas of drugs, white collar crime, official corruption and more. You can also find free reports on the enforcement activities selected government agencies such as the IRS, FBI, DHS and DEA. The December 2009 criminal data are also available to TRACFED subscribers via the Express, Going Deeper and Analyzer tools.

Go to for more information. Customized reports for a specific agency, district, program, lead charge or judge are available via the TRAC Data Interpreter, either as part of a TRACFED subscription or on a per-report basis. Go to to start. TRAC is self-supporting and depends on foundation grants, individual contributions and subscription fees for the funding needed to obtain, analyze and publish the data we collect on the activities of the US Federal government.

To help support TRAC’s ongoing efforts, go to:

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