Drug-related violence in Mexico has become so overwhelming that some police officers and journalists would rather sit in a cell at a US immigration detention center. The alternative includes being caught in the crossfire between rival gangs in Mexico.
The situation in Ciudad Juarez, across the Rio Grande from El Paso, Texas, can be described by police officer Salvador Hernandez Arvizu, who was sequestered in a U.S. Immigration holding cell.
After his name was blacklisted by drugs gangs, he was hit by two bullets a year ago while walking with his family in a downtown area. He was rushed to a medical centre ‘guarded by dozens of armed agents’, but his fear of further violence was greater than the pain he was suffering. In less than a month, he had left his hospital bed and crossed the border to El Paso, where he applied to US immigration authorities for political asylum and was promptly placed in a holding cell.
Jorge Luis Aguirre, a Mexican journalist, soon found himself in the same predicament. An anonymous phone call forced him into exile in El Paso. The call came as he was driving to the funeral of a journalist from El Diario de Juarez newspaper, who had been shot dead.
The 51-year-old journalist, together with his wife and three adult children, currently lives in El Paso on a temporary one-year visa that had been previously granted so he could report on both sides of the border.
Whatever the inconvenience, Aguirre says sitting in jail would be a better option than a return to Mexico. ‘Of course I would prefer seven months in jail because it’s a matter of life and death,” he said.