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Mexican officials say the problem is not theirs alone. “The origin of our violence problem starts with the fact that Mexico is located next to the country that has the highest level of drug consumption in the world,” President Felipe Calderon wrote in a 5,000-word editorial printed on June 16 throughout Mexico. “It’s as if our neighbor were the biggest drug addict in the world.” While Juarez’s violence was triggered by the troop deployment, and by funding from the United States, Mexicans seeking refuge in their sister city find that the U.S. government is unwilling to help the victims of the violence. WHEN JUAN CROSSED THE BORDER, he didn’t tell the border guards his family was seeking asylum; his crossing card meant he didn’t need to. He also knew that sharing his fears could land his family in a detention cell. So he acted as if it was just a daily trip allowed by all laser visa holders. Then, he found refuge at Annunciation House, a shelter for asylum seekers established in 1978, when civil wars were spreading in Central America. “We have nothing left in Juarez. We have nothing here either, but it’s safer,” Juan says. He works odd jobs as a carpenter, landscaper, whatever he can get. “If immigration catches me, I will go to another country, but I can’t go back to Mexico because they will kill us,” he says. “The narcos, the Mexican government, they know everything. Everything’s corrupt.” Technically, Juan has until September to apply for asylum. But he’s not sure he wants to attract the attention of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, or ICE. The process takes a lot of time and money. And he knows the U.S. rarely grants Mexicans asylum. So far, 11,000 Mexicans have sought asylum, and tens of thousands more have crossed the border fearing for their lives. They include people with visas, people like Juan who overstay their visas, people who seek asylum and people who are afraid to seek asylum. They are rich, poor, professionals, students, journalists and police officersin short, the people who make up any community anywhere in the world. They are the displaced, uncounted victims of the war on drugs. Of those who have sought asylum in the United States, only 2 percent have gained permission to stay. That compares with 40 percent of Colombians who apply after fleeing drug-related violence in their country. “There are four types of Mexican citizens in El Paso: those who have legalized their status, those who have resident visas because they are students, professionals or business people, and there are those with bordercrossing cards who either live in El Paso and work in Juarez, or stay in El Paso illegally,” said Gustavo de la Rosa, the human rights ombudsman for the Mexican government in Juarez. De la Rosa’s job is to investigate abuse accusations against government officials. He sleeps in El Paso for his safety but goes to work in Juarez during the day with bodyguards. Wealthy Mexicans, he says, usually have visas, resident status or relatives who are U.S. citizens. They can afford El Paso rents that are three times the rates in Mexico. \(Since the drug wars began, real estate prices along the border are up 20 to 40 per”You say you are going to visit family. You stay in El Paso and pay rent, but you’re not absolutely legal and tain illegalities that are tolerated by the U.S.” If you can afford it. Poor Mexicans are not so lucky. So for now, Juan and his family are among 90 people from Mexico hiding in one of the homes run by Annunciation. THE NUMBERS MAKE IT CLEAR that not all of those killed and wounded in Mexico are drug traffickers. Pablo Hernandez Batista, a veteran reporter with the While the United States bears much responsibility for Juarez’s violence, Mexicans seeking refuge find that the U.S. government is unwilling to help the victims of the violence it is fueling. Children come to see what has happened at the scene of a murder in Ciudad Juarez, Chihuahua, on May 13, 2010. SEE a BBC audio/slideshow on Juarez at AUGUST 06, 2010 THE TEXAS OBSERVER 9