EL PASO, Texas -- Mexicans forced to flee violence and threats back home are banding together to create a new group in the United States called “Mexicans in Exile.”
While members wait for political asylum and to try to build new lives, they are demanding justice in Mexico.
“There are 80,000 cases open. That’s 80,000 crimes that the government of Mexico does not investigate or punish, said Saul Reyes, a founding member of the group.
“We’re here in the U.S. starting to rebuild our lives, starting from zero, but we’re also determined to demand the Mexican government investigate and punish those responsible,” said Reyes.
He was among 30 people who gathered outside the Mexican Consulate in El Paso to mark the one-year anniversary of the disappearance of Isela Hernandez Lara.
“I was there the day my mother was taken. It was the last time (I) saw her,” said Diana Murguia, 16, tearfully.
The teen said she felt helpless when a group of masked men kidnapped her mother at gunpoint on August 14, 2011. Isela Hernandez Lara is still missing a year later.
Murguia, and other relatives, fled and are now among thousands of Mexican citizens seeking political asylum in the U.S. The number of applicants has steadily grown as violence escalated in Mexico.
“And our group keeps growing every day since the violence hasn’t stopped,” said Daniel Vega, 18, Murguia’s cousin. “We want justice, we want results.”
In El Paso alone there are at least 132 cases.
According to U.S. Citizen Services, there were 4,442 applications filed through June of this year. Last year the number was 4,079. Applicants can include entire families. In 2011 there were 4,079 applications from Mexican citizens.
Mexicans in Exile does not want to grow as an organization. Each member has a personal story of pain, fear and loss.
Marisela Valles, 22, was the police chief of the small town of Praxedis G. Guerrero in the Valley of Juarez, a hot spot for cartel smugglers, before she had to flee. After facing death threats last year from drug traffickers she escaped across the border to Texas with her husband and baby.
As she waits for a decision on her asylum application, she and others seek a safe haven and vow to keep fighting for justice for victims of crime in Mexico.
“We may be exiles but we’re going to unite and speak out,” she said.