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Joan B. Kroc School of Peace Studies
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TBI Director is Expert Witness in Federal Appeal for Mexican Asylum Seeker
Thursday, March 27, 2014
Last week, the U.S. Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals ruled in favor of a former federal police officer from Mexico, who sought asylum in the United States after he was targeted for assassination by drug traffickers.
The court vacated the order of removal (deportation) handed down by the immigration courts, validated his asylum claim and ordered the Board of Immigration Appeals to reconsider his case. There was never a question of the officer’s honesty or the veracity of his claim that he had been targeted for his efforts to prosecute drug traffickers and his refusal to accept bribes from them. The immigration judge specifically recognized his credibility. But, the judge ruled that suffering violent threats and reprisals from criminals was an inherent risk for all police officers, and that being a former honest cop targeted by criminals didn’t rise to the level of “persecution” for one’s “membership in a social group” under federal law.
TBI Director Ev Meade filed an amicus curiae brief in the appeal, in which he explains that the policy of plata o plomo [silver or lead] – where police officers are forced either to take a bribe or a bullet – is systemic, not personal, in Mexico. Once police officers have been targeted for failing to cooperate with organized crime they cannot escape by retiring or relocating within Mexico. The current wave of violence in Mexico is highly de-centralized and it runs on a volatile mix of risk calculus, rumor, and reprisal which makes it virtually impossible to control who’s targeted or to remove an individual from a free-floating hit list once they’re on it. And the violence follows a logic of spectacle that goes far beyond the suppression of particular pieces evidence or the intimidation of particular witnesses.
Judge Easterbrook’s decision not only validates the officer’s (known as R.R.D.) asylum claim, but also questions the government’s priorities in pursuing the case against him so vigorously: “We also wonder why the Department of Homeland Security wants to remove R.R.D. and his family. The Immigration Judge found that R.R.D. was an honest and effective police officer in Mexico, willing to bring criminals to justice at substantial risk to himself. He appears to have led an exemplary life in the United States since entering (lawfully) and applying for asylum. He appears to be someone who should be hired and put to work by the Department of Homeland Security itself, rather than sent packing.”
The National Immigrant Justice Center in Chicago coordinated the legal defense effort; lawyers from Faegre Baker Daniels in South Bend, Indiana represented Dr. Meade; and Matthew Price, a partner at Jenner & Block in Washington, D.C. argued the case in front of the Seventh Circuit.