by Ana M. Fores Tamayo
Continued from Part I here.
When the police in Guerrero, Mexico told this young woman to leave their station, not to report her missing brother or something worse could happen, she realized she could not count on the police’s help to go after the cartels. Luckily, her brother was returned, beaten up but alive. hen she began to get harassed later that year, because she saw a woman abducted and then murdered, when she began to get subsequent death threats, when she began to hear that they were going to take her small son unless she complied to whatever they wanted from her, when they began accosting her sexually — so that she had to leave her job — she knew she could not go to the police: she had learned her lesson that first time.
Yet this judge did not understand that they spoke of two different worlds.
Yet this judge did not understand that they spoke of two different worlds. This young mother understood the Mexican police for how they “are ruled” in Mexico’s streets or how these same police are complicit through their silence: “report a crime, I will be killed by the cartels, and the police will do nothing to protect me, so I should not report any crime, lest I call attention to myself.”
But this judge told her that police here in the US similarly tell citizens not to go near kidnappers. What he was comparing, however, was apples to oranges. When police in the US tell citizens not to “look for kidnappers or criminals,” it is because they are telling people they will do the job themselves and will find these criminals. In Mexico, that is not the case. When Mexican police tell people not to go near the cases, it is because they do not want to deal with the consequences of another murder to tidy up.
As a Pro Se asylum respondent, this young woman of 25, fought admirably for her freedom. When she pointed out an article she had delivered as evidence, which showed the corruption of the Mexican police and the lack of protection from them — since she is no lawyer, and the interpreter was not at her best that day — the judge completely ignored this section of her testimony. Though the distraught mother mentioned this article several times, in addition to her own story, the judge chose to disregard it. He also made it a point to say that her translations were “uncertified” and unknown, although she used standard procedure for all her translation documents, as required by the courts. Never before has the court system needed to officially notarize a translation of a document, or require it to be done by a certified interpreter/translator.
Moreover, this young woman had the wherewithal to bring in her sister to testify. Although she had no lawyer to guide her, she followed correct protocol again. It was a short testimonial, but the sister corroborated what had happened, although she had sat outside the entire time while the young mother was giving her evidence. It is important to note how — with the sister’s testimony — the judge already had his ready-made case and was fitting his decision to it, shaping what he wanted to use. When he made his ruling, not only did he ignore crucial testimony and evidence, but he completely twisted the sister’s testimony to fit his own agenda, and put words into her mouth, as what she said and what he heard were two different realities.
These judges are used to having the court to themselves
These judges are used to having the court to themselves: the respondent who speaks no English, the opposing lawyer and sometimes, an attorney defending the rights of the refugees — though most cannot afford them — and the judge king. But here I was sitting, making observations. And I have done this same thing before. The judge did not like the fact that I was “judging” his reign. Still, this did not stop his reign of terror in the courts.
Though narco traffickers intimidate these foreign governments and the general population, and we might sympathize with the respondents, the judge began, this does not establish a nexus for most people seeking asylum. He continued: a generic fear of violence is not approval for sanctuary. The cartels, maras, or gangs are private actors, not part of a government that tortures people, even if they terrify. The police might even be victims themselves, but this does not equal their being complicit with the corruption in these cartels. Thus most refugees are victims of individuals, not the government, and therefore they cannot establish grounds for asylum.
This young woman went to ICE after she lost the hearing, and our government again shackled her, though they had previously taken off the GPS monitor. They told her that unless she presented papers from her upcoming appeal, she would remain shackled. They then proceeded to intimidate her and demand that she get the appeal to them immediately. Afterward, ICE relented and told her she had until the 8th of the following month, not even 10 days. I told her she had 30 days by law before deportation proceedings could begin.
This is a beautiful young mother who has done no wrong. She escaped her country because the cartels wanted to kill her after she saw them murder yet another innocent, and they would have killed her too after torturing her, had she not escaped, like so many others. Instead of finding understanding and help here in “our land of the free and the brave,” instead of finding sanctuary to welcome her, she finds bars and shackles to constrain her. And yes, she also finds that our government wants to send her back to a death trap.
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