As Mexican drug cartels' wealth and weaponry have grown, and the country's government has backed away from a failed military crackdown, gangs have infiltrated Mexico's remote regions, increasing the flow of migrants seeking asylum in the U.S., the Los Angeles Times reports. While many enter the U.S. each year for largely economic reasons, a less-discussed side of America's fraught immigration debate concerns those fleeing endemic corruption and violence among rival drug cartels.
Decisions about which immigrants get asylum are fueled by U.S. foreign policy priorities, diplomatic relations and a prejudicial fear of “opening the floodgates” for others to come, said Karen Musalo, a professor at UC Hastings College of the Law who has litigated several landmark asylum cases. “When we talk about rule of law, we talk about the unbiased application of law to the facts,” she said. “Those are factors that should not impact what the outcome is.” More than 80 percent of claims by people from Mexico, Honduras, El Salvador and Guatemala were denied during fiscal year 2020, according to Syracuse University's Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse. President Biden has called for a review of asylum regulations to evaluate whether the U.S. aligns with international standards in providing protection for those fleeing domestic and gang violence — cases that were categorically denied during the Trump administration. But the border remains closed to the vast majority of asylum seekers under a restrictive pandemic-era policy initiated by Trump and continued by Biden. Since the Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI) was ousted from complete control in 2000, gangs have intervened in more competitive elections to control politicians who can provide them with protection. "The local order is transforming completely," said Sandra Ley, a political science professor at the Centro de Investigacion y Docencia Economicas in Mexico City.