Jose Alarcon, 27, was a cop in one of the world’s most lawless cities. Wounded in a gun battle with drug gangs in Juarez in 2008, he survived only to see his partner killed in another gunfight. When Alarcon refused bribes from the city’s drug lords, he knew it was a matter of days before they killed him, too. Alarcon, his wife and two young children fled to El Paso to seek asylum in the United States.
In early January, Alarcon’s asylum case was denied by a Dallas federal immigration judge. The case could set a precedent for other Mexican police officers seeking asylum in the U.S. It’s difficult to determine how many officers have requested asylum because U.S. immigration officials do not collect the data. One of Alarcon’s Dallas attorneys, Will Humble, said Texas lawyers with cases scheduled before asylum judges have been calling his office since the denial. “They’re very anxious and want to see how the decision applies to their clients,” he says.
In Alarcon’s case, the judge ruled that the dangers he faced as a police officer in Juarez were “the risks police officers have to take,” Humble says. He declined to release the judge’s decision to the Observer because it contains details that could endanger Alarcon’s life.
The number of Mexicans fleeing because of drug cartel violence continues to escalate. The most violent city is Juarez, with 6,347 deaths in the past four years. Despite the growing list of victims, at least 85 percent of Mexicans who apply for asylum are denied, according to U.S. immigration statistics. Applicants must prove they are members of a social, political or other group targeted for persecution—a difficult standard.
Humble says Alarcon will appeal his case, which could take another 18 months. Until then, the 27-year-old former police officer and his young family remain in limbo in the United States. “He’s just going to wait and pray that his case is approved,” Humble says