Assisting Victims of Persecution in Mexico
In recent decades, Mexico has experienced dramatic increases in violence crime and serious human rights violations. Since 2000, over a quarter million Mexicans were murdered. The violence has worsened significantly in recent years, especially. Since 2006, Mexico experienced an average of more than 20,000 people per year, which equates to more than 55 people per day, or just over two people every hour. No other country in the Western Hemisphere has seen such a large increase either in its homicide rate or in the absolute number of homicides over the last two decades. Studies by the Justice in Mexico program suggest that a significant portion of these murders are committed by organized crime groups, often operating with the knowledge and complicity of Mexican government and law enforcement officials.
As a result of Mexico’s grave security situation, many Mexicans have been internally displaced. Since 2000, roughly 100,000 Mexican nationals have sought protection in the United States through formal claims for asylum. However, all asylum seekers must meet a high burden of proof that they have and will continue to face persecution in their home country, and Mexican nationals have historically had difficulty meeting this burden. U.S. asylum law requires that there be government persecution or acquiescence to persecution in the country in question, and this standard can be difficult to meet in cases involving Mexican nationals. As a result, only a fraction (about 2%) of U.S asylum claims made by Mexican nationals have been granted since 2003, based on data available from the U.S. Department of Justice.
Over the past several years, Justice in Mexico has provided pro bono expert witness testimony for persons who are fleeing violence and persecution in Mexico and seeking relief in the United States. To assist individuals that have been targeted for persecution in Mexico, the Justice in Mexico program’s Testigo project provides access to informational resources, offers pro bono expert testimony, and helps to advocate for better policies to assist asylum seekers.
Expert witness testimony draws on Justice in Mexico’s cutting edge research to help corroborate country conditions in Mexico in cases involving requests for relief of asylum, withholding of removal, and Convention Against Torture. This pro bono assistance is focused primarily on individuals that have a clearly demonstrated justification and limited economic means.
Typically, cases handled by Testigo pro bono expert witnesses involve victims that have suffered from serious crimes, systematic discrimination, and/or human rights abuses in Mexico. In such cases, remaining in Mexico or being removed from the United States would be very likely to put those persons in harm’s way. Testigo expert witness testimony has helped Mexican police officers who resisted corruption on the force, individuals targeted by organized crime groups that enjoy the protection of government officials, and LGBT persons who have suffered from a pattern of widespread societal abuse.
To help advance the Testigo project’s legal assistance efforts, the Justice in Mexico’s program proposes a two-year initiative to:
1) Generate research, data, and publications on country conditions and asylum trends
2) Host informational seminars on asylum and immigrant rights
3) Offer expanded pro bono expert witness testimony
4) Provide direct representation of clients in need of pro bono legal assistance
5) Engage in policy advocacy on international asylum claims.