By Patricia Giovine
EL PASO, Texas – Some 30,000 residents of nearby Ciudad Juarez, Mexico, have settled in El Paso in recent years because of the drug trafficking violence that is blamed for more than 4,000 deaths in the Mexican city in a little more than two years.
That influx has generated concern in the El Paso Police Department, City Councilman Beto O’Rourke said in an interview with Efe.
“The Police Department released that estimate because they’re seeking authorization to buy 1,100 M4 assault rifles for (their) personnel, claiming that they don’t know who the people are who are establishing themselves in the city coming from Mexico or from whom they are fleeing,” he said.
Police say that although there has only been one kidnapping in the El Paso area reported in the past year, that one of a man who then turned up dead in Juarez, there have been attempted abductions that have not been successful.
“It’s necessary to be prepared to respond to these incidents with the necessary tools, and the criminals are armed with high-powered rifles,” one officer told Efe on condition of anonymity.
O’Rourke, who defends the legalization of marijuana as a possible solution to “narco-violence,” said that the arrival of Mexicans culturally enriches the communities where they settle, as well as the local economy, because they rent houses and do their shopping in the city.
In fact, the real estate crisis here has not been as bad as elsewhere in part because many Mexicans have bought homes, even paying in cash, so that they can settle in the United States after receiving threats in their country.
“I was threatened recently. They told me they were going to kill me and that day I came to El Paso,” said Carlos, a former Juarez resident who now lives with friends in the Texas city.
“I’m not returning to Ciudad Juarez because they threatened a friend (of mine) like that and killed him,” the 24-year-old says.
Another newcomer, Fernando, said that his parents moved to El Paso to live after his father was kidnapped as he was driving a vehicle with Texas license plates even though he lived just across the Rio Grande in Juarez.
“Apparently, the confused him (with somebody else) because the kidnappers got into his vehicle and asked him for his personal data. After that, they took him to a parking lot, then told him to count to 1,000 and they got out of the car without doing anything,” said Fernando, who added that his father was sure the men were going to shoot him.
“My dad came home, he spoke with my mother, they loaded what would fit into the pickup truck and went to El Paso, leaving their house in Mexico abandoned,” he added, going on to say that his parents have legal residence in the United States.
“It’s been a year and ... they’ve (only gone back) to Juarez three times ... But they don’t stay there to live,” he remarked, noting that they had bought a house in El Paso a month ago.
El Paso immigration attorney Carlos Spector confirmed that many people who are arriving are exploring the possibility of becoming legal residents, obtaining a business visa or even political asylum if they have no other option.
The majority of these people cross the border with tourist visas or with a local crossing authorization that allows them to stay in the United States for up to 30 days, he said.
“But there are those who don’t have the avenues to legalize their stay in the United States, and they are simply staying despite the fact that this brings the risk of being discovered and having their local crossing document withdrawn indefinitely,” he added. EFE