Tarahumaras faced with violence from organized crime seek asylum in US
Children in the Sierra Tarahumara. Photo: Eduardo Miranda
By: Patricia Mayorga
CHIHUAHUA, Chih. (apro). – The Rarámuri, Santiago Cruz Castillo, 26, requested political asylum in El Paso, Texas, after organized crime took away his lands in La Laguna de Aboreachi, municipality of Guachochi, like hundreds of indigenous and mestizos of the Sierra Tarahumara.
Another family from the La Trinidad ejido, in Guadalupe y Calvo municipality arrived before Santiago Cruz to request asylum. After five months, they are still holding David Ríos Laija, one of the members of that family, in custody.
Santiago Cruz arrived alone; he is single and his parents stayed in the Sierra. “I arrived in the United States on November 24 because of the violence that exists in the communities. Many people have gone away because they started to take the land away through criminal activity, through violence; they kill and disappear us and no one gives us protection. We have to leave.”
The young Tarahumara says that they snatched their small parcels of land and their houses to plant poppies and marijuana.
He opted to travel to Juárez, they invited him, they contracted with him and they took him to that border. He worked on a ranch close to Ciudad Juárez, but they were paying him very little and he worked a lot and he became discouraged. “I wasn’t comfortable, I worked long hours, they paid very little and I wasn’t treated well.”
On November 24 he decided to cross into the United States, he was in the detention centre and afterwards made contact with the expert immigration lawyer, Carlos Spector, who took his case and is in the process of requesting political asylum.
Santiago Cruz’ wish is to help his people from there, because he is convinced that he can denounce the situation and is confident that the authorities will do something.
“I want to help my people, so that the government will let them work, I want to help from here. The truth is that the violence is strong, I know how it is, don’t tell me,” he insists.
Carlos Spector said that six months ago the Rios family arrived from Guadalupe y Calvo, after an armed group disappeared the father, who was the community’s commissioner.
“The widow Aureliana Leija and her two sons came in September. David Ríos Leija, 22, is a student of Medicine; they are Christians, it is a clean family and they are mestizos. The other son that came is Elías Ríos, 19.
“They fled due to the father’s political situation, they began to seek it and they (the criminals) tell him that they will leave him in peace, that they won’t look for him and they leave seeking asylum. That is part of the press communication, they let the mother go later, Elías 2 months after the credible fear test,” the lawyer detailed.
Nevertheless, David is still detained and Spector denounced that they don’t want to release him despite the fact that he already passed the credible fear test, because the criteria hardened with the Donald Trump government.
“It’s a case of immigration abuse. There exists a bi-national policy of persecution and the incarceration of poor Mexicans, human rights defenders or people that complain and ask for asylum. They incarcerate them or separate them from their family. After being detained for 5 months, there is no possibility of closing the case quickly; that’s the point of prolonged detention. It’s a political kidnapping to discourage strong political asylum cases,” Carlos Spector said.
The lawyer said that in the Barack Obama government and in other administrations, when they ask for political asylum like is done at the international bridge, they would detain them for two months until they passed the credible fear test and then release them if they showed that they didn’t represent threats to the community and if they guaranteed that they would attend all the hearings.
Before, he said, the local “Migra” signed the conditional release, the conditional freedom, but now they decided that the national assistant director of immigration in Washington must approve those requesting political asylum to be released.
“It’s a democratic way to not grant asylum to anyone. That is the new policy and a formula for repression and mass deportation, applying the law in an extremely rigid and repressive way. The family wants to leave because the young man wants to leave, but he has to appear in court on March 8. Now they have undertaken a campaign to free him.”
This Monday, Spector announced, they have an appointment with the archbishop for the area, who has spoken out against the criminalization of political asylum.
The lawyer announced that the authorities are going to build more detention centres because soon the people aren’t going to fit in those that exist and he reproached that when people ask for political asylum at the bridge, they are entering legally, in accordance with the laws of the United States and with international laws, therefore he reproached the repressive measures, which he compared to those for the Japanese.
Spector reported that Santiago Cruz is the first Rarámuri to request political asylum, but there are another 300 Tarahumaras that are in prisons in the Southwestern United States, who are without defence because they don’t have translators.
Saúl Bustamante has finally helped them. He is mestizo and was raised in a cave in the Tarahumara by an indigenous family, because of which he is a firm defender of his people and principally of those who don’t have access to justice. He has organized events to promote Tarahumara culture in El Paso, like (running) races, and hopes to achieve the freedom or the just defence of indigenous Chihuahuans.
Originally Published in Spanish by Proceso.com
Friday, February 24, 2017
Re-Published with English interpretation by the Chiapas Support Committee