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A Mexican cop in search of sanctuary

A Juarez cop fled to Texas after drug cartels attacked him. Will a judge send him back?

A clipping from the Mexican newspaper El Diario about the gun battle between the officers and members of the cartel. Alarcon and Galindo are pictured at left.

AUSTIN, Texas — One day in April of last year, four-year police veteran Jose Alarcon and his partner, Capt. Felipe Galindo, detained two armed drug dealers after making a traffic stop in Juarez, Mexico. It didn’t take long for the Juarez Cartel to learn about the bust.

The cartel had a network of street spies, and it had so thoroughly infiltrated the department that thugs routinely used the radio dispatch system to issue commands.

On Alarcon and Galindo’s squad car radio, the voice of a cartel thug broke in and ordered the two cops to release their detainees immediately — or else. The duo complied with the order, and the drug dealers, for whatever reason, were gunned down by cartel soldiers a couple of hours after their release. Alarcon and Galindo were then dispatched to the bloody crime scene. On their way, the cartel voice broke in on their radio with another message: no matter that they’d done as instructed. Both officers were marked to die.

The next day, Alarcon and Galindo found themselves in a bloody gun battle. Today, the 26-year-old is in hiding from the Juarez Cartel with his wife and two children somewhere in Texas. In fleeing to the United States, Alarcon has joined a growing number of police officers, journalists, lawyers, businessmen and regular citizens who have fled their nation’s violent drug cartels to petition for American asylum. Alarcon is one of the very few who has agreed to share the full details of his story and legal quest in a Dallas immigration court.

“If I ever have to go back to Mexico, and they find out, they’re just going to kill me. I’m sure of it,” he told GlobalPost recently through an interpreter.

His prediction might be put to the test. Immigration judges weighing these cases, more often than not, have sent Mexican asylum seekers back to face the cartels, according to a half dozen immigration lawyers who have handled these cases, from Texas to Pennsylvania. The judges are essentially ruling that asylum law, as currently written, does not cover foreign victims of crimes that have no political motivation. Other judges, though, have granted some asylum petitions.

Sometime early next year, a Dallas-based immigration judge will have to issue a ruling that could determine whether others like Alarcon will find sanctuary in the Dallas area.

Hoping that publicizing his story might help, Alarcon and his Dallas immigration attorney, Ludo Gardini, agreed to talk with GlobalPost. In return, they asked only that Alarcon’s exact whereabouts not be revealed.

Alarcon’s lawyer will have no trouble showing that police work is dangerous in Juarez. Torture houses abound, and decapitated corpses turn up with regularity. It’s been that way since 2006, when President Felipe Calderon declared war on trafficking organizations. He deployed troops to retake entrenched cartel strongholds all over Mexico and remove dishonest public servants, especially in border towns that had been turned into drug transit hubs.