Photo: Porras family
All 20 surviving members of a Mexican family who saw two of their kin murdered have fled to the United States and are requesting asylum.
The clan, including five children, left the town of Villa Ahumada on June 19 with nothing but the clothes on their backs, Cesar Porras told Efe here Tuesday.
Four days later, personnel from the Mexican Attorney General’s Office escorted the Porras family to the U.S. Port of Entry in El Paso, Texas, where they were admitted pending a decision on their asylum request.
“We are certain that the principal reason for our persecution is our political affiliation with the National Action Party in a town completely controlled by Priistas (members of the Institutional Revolutionary Party, or PRI) and organized crime,” Cesar says.
El Paso immigration lawyer Carlos Spector is trying to obtain authorization for the Porras family to travel throughout the United States and seek work while they wait for authorities to decide on their asylum bid.
“This is an emblematic case,” the attorney told Efe. “I don’t know of any instance since the (1910-1917) Mexican Revolution in which an entire family, of 20 members, leaves.”
While it used to be that only individuals in very specific situations would apply for asylum, “now it’s entire families,” Spector said, adding that he is currently representing around 70 families who have fled drug-war violence south of the border.
“Although we already presented the asylum request, we will have to wait up to four years for them to grant us the first hearing for the Porrases,” the attorney said.
At the moment, Cesar Porras says, the family is finding it “very hard” to accept that their lives as they knew them are over.
Back in Villa Ahumada, a town in the border state of Chihuahua, members of the Porras clan were influential merchants and business-owners.
“We feel our lives changed overnight. On Father’s Day, they murdered my dad, Rodolfo Porras Gonzales, and on June 19 while my brother Jaime visited his grave, a day after having buried him, they shot him (Jaime) in the head,” Cesar recounted.
“We couldn’t bury my brother. The town priest and some neighbors buried him. We had to flee out of fear that someone else in our family would end up murdered,” the 30-year-old said.
Hector Armando Porras Gonzalez, brother of the slain Rodolfo, said the family learned that within hours of their leaving Villa Ahumada, criminal gangs looted and burned their homes.
“We didn’t have problems with anyone. We’re good, hardworking people, but the situation in Villa Ahumada began to break down about three years ago. Now, the criminals run everything, the police are bought,” Hector Porras said.
Chihuahua has accounted for about 30 percent of the more than 50,000 homicides committed in Mexico since President Felipe Calderon, who will leave office at year’s end, militarized the struggle against drug cartels within days of taking office in December 2006.