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Sunday, May 12, 2013 - Page updated at 06:01 a.m.

Asylum requests from Mexico triple, but odds of success not good

By Dianne Solis and Alfredo Corchado
The Dallas Morning News

DALLAS — Bety fled into Dallas with her three children as though Satan chased her.

The 28-year-old from Mexico says her husband is a member of the brutal binational criminal organization known as the Zetas. Her 8-year-old son witnessed his father in a firefight at a soccer field, and the child says he wants to kill people, too.

Her 10-year-old daughter says her mother also should kill: Aim a gun at her father, she says. Peace will be the reward, her daughter reasons.

Bety, who asked for anonymity, is one of thousands of Mexicans displaced by Mexico’s drug-related violence. Enough Mexicans are now fleeing that they’ve become the second-largest nationality, after the Chinese, to seek U.S. asylum, according to the United Nations. Over a five-year period, their numbers have tripled in asylum petitions before the courts and federal immigration officials. Overall numbers of apprehensions of Mexicans unlawfully entering the country are at new lows.

Far lower are the chances of Mexicans succeeding in an asylum petition.

“This question of asylum based on Mexican drug violence has come up before, and people in the State Department are leery as it would just open the floodgates,” said Vanda Felbab-Brown, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution who studies security issues.

“My sympathies would be to extend asylum to those caught in the crossfire.”

Felbab-Brown noted that even Iraqis and Afghans working with the U.S. military have had a hard fight getting legal entry into the U.S., though special visas were set aside for them. “It is very tricky to say that asylum should be extended to those who have suffered from violence but not been leaders against it,” she said.

Bety’s Dallas attorney, Fernando Dubove, hopes to get her lawful immigration status fitting the difficult circumstances of her arrival. She has not applied for asylum, but her attorney doesn’t rule that out as an option.

The petite woman with hair streaked blond shows a stack of photos and recounts a stream of spousal abuse as well as frightening statements from her children. Her central fear is her children will be warped by the violence they’ve witnessed.

As she shows the photos, large, ugly scars on her wrist tell yet another story. She blocked a blow with that wrist as her husband held a broken bottle aiming to carve her face, she said.

The tension between the couple built over a decadelong relationship that started when he kidnapped her when she was 14, she said. Beatings eventually followed and became more frequent. “He would hit me, and the kids would see it. He would hit me a lot. I would tell him ‘yes’ to anything.”

She decided to cross the Rio Grande illegally with a coyote who charged the family $10,000.

She plotted her escape carefully, she said. Her husband seldom left all three children with her, and Bety suspects he sensed she would flee with all of them.

“He knew my children were my reason for living,” she said.

Then the morning dawned last July when she was alone with all three children. They fled to the Mexican border town of Piedras Negras, across from Eagle Pass, Texas, then crossed the Rio Grande.

They quickly slipped into dry clothes so they’d blend more easily into the streets of Eagle Pass.

But within minutes, or immigration agents surrounded them. Bety says she said, “God, why? I’m trying to get opportunities for my children. I only want my children to be safe.”

One child blurted, “My father is going to kill my mother.”

The agent retorted: “That is not my problem. You need to go to your country and ask for help. This is my country, and I protect it.”

Bety persisted. “I’m not going back. For what, so they can kill me?

Another agent paused — Bety calls him “a good man” — and said, “Hold it.”

The immigration agent asked her about relatives in the U.S., and she told them about an aunt who had a green card, legal permanent residency. Soon, rather than facing an expedited deportation, Bety and her young family were being “paroled” into the U.S. to face removal hearings at a later date.

The agent took the family to a grocery store and bought food for the children, who hadn’t eaten in two days. “He was the closest thing to an angel,” Bety said.

Her adjustment in the Dallas area hasn’t been easy.

Too many words still spill from her children like bullets.

“I hate my father,” said the daughter.

“Why?”

“I just do.

“Why don’t you just kill him so we can live like a family?”

One son even told her what many Mexican mothers fear when young boys are around narco-violence: “I want to be one of them. People respect them.”

The other son, 7, is protective, telling her he will tell his father, “I’m going to kill you when I grow up because you hurt my mother.”

The daughter already confronted the father directly: “You are Zeta, and you kill people.”

Counselors at a church called New Beginnings and counselors at two Dallas-area public schools have helped her. They give her and the children therapy. School records chart problems with one son, who has spat and hit a teacher.

“The children are very damaged by this,” the mother said.

Bety, who is working as a manicurist, tries to tell the children “el antes no existe” — what happened before doesn’t exist.

Yet the past isn’t far away.

The father tracked his daughter on Facebook and asked for her address, swearing he wouldn’t be abusive again. The little girl told her mother, and Bety put an end to the contact.

Fear gripped Bety again when a friend told her that her husband had crossed into the United States. That was two months ago, and Bety said she has learned since that he had he returned to Mexico.

“I am here because this country makes me safe. That is something my country never gave me. I can be in peace and tranquillity here. There, I was always crying.”


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