EL PASO, Texas — Christian Chaidez says when his family in Mexico refused to pay extortion to a 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,” said Chaidez 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,” said Chaidez.
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 in 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.
“I’m here fighting to prevent another killing,” said Blanca Chaidez of her effort to find a safe haven for her son.
“My mother, my aunts, my husband, my nephews,” said Chaidez listing the relatives who were murdered in Mexico over the span of two years when violence peaked in Ciudad Juarez in 2010. “I don’t wish that on anyone.”
As she mourned her family, Chaidez a legal resident in the U.S., fought keep her son from getting deported.
An immigration judge stopped deportation proceedings 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,” said Carlos Spector, an immigration attorney in El Paso, who helped 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,” said Spector.
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, if conditions in his native Mexico improve.
Now, that he’s free he’s speaking out for others still in detention facing deportation. His hope: “For prolonged detention to stop and make it shorter and faster for the other families as well.”