EL PASO — Christian Chaidez says when his family in Mexico refused to pay extortion to a drug cartel, 11 relatives paid with their lives and he fled to the United States.
In a rare move, an immigration judge has granted the 30-year-old native of Ciudad Juarez a safe haven after considering extortion was the reason for the systematic targeting of his family.
“I was supposed to be there, but due to I had worked the previous day, I was too tired,” Chaidez said, recounting the mass killing at a family barbecue.
“The gunmen — or ‘sicarios,’ as we call them — came back and realized there were more people inside, so they just went inside and killed everyone, shooting them in the head, including my grandma,” Chaidez said.
In separate incidents, his father, who owned a mechanic shop; and his uncle, a used car lot owner; were also murdered.
“If I would have stayed over there, I would have been with him,” said Chaidez, recounting the ordeal at his lawyer’s office in El Paso.
When the family body count rose to 11, Chaidez fled across the border to El Paso and spent more than a year in an immigration detention center.
Blanca Chaidez is working to find a safe haven for her son. “I’m here fighting to prevent another killing,” she said, adding that her mother, aunts, husband and nephews are all among those slain in Mexico over the span of two years when violence peaked in Ciudad Juarez in 2010. “I don’t wish that on anyone,” she said.
As Chaidez — a legal resident in the U.S. — mourned her family, she fought keep her son from being deported.
An immigration judge halted deportation proceedings on June 26, citing “a reasonable fear of persecution.”
While the judge considered extortion as a motive, violent crime alone is not enough to win asylum. Countless business owners, large and small, struggle with extortion in Mexico.
“It has to be extortion plus something. Extortion plus political persecution; extortion plus persecution of the family,” explained Carlos Spector, an immigration attorney in El Paso. He helped Christian Chaidez, and has handled numerous asylum cases involving Mexican citizens.
“We were able to prove that if Mr. Chaidez was deported to Mexico, he would be picked up by the federal immigration authorities and turned over to the cartels,” Spector said.
Chaidez said corrupt Mexican authorities who have access to lists of deportees often tip off cartel members who target people for shakedowns or threats when they return to Mexico.
“That’s when they text the cartels. 'You know what? So-and-so person just got deported. Do you guys know him?'”
Chaidez is not eligible for asylum because after he was deported the first time, he re-entered the U.S. illegally rather than risk staying in Mexico.
He’s grateful to the immigration judge who stopped deportation proceedings, in effect allowing Chaidez to stay in the U.S. indefinitely. He could face removal again, however, if conditions in his native Mexico improve.
Now that he’s free, Chaidez is speaking out for others who remain in detention facing deportation. His hope: “For prolonged detention to stop, and make it shorter and faster for the other families as well." E-mail email@example.com