Asylum Possible for Drug Cartel’s Alleged Target

     (CN) – The 9th Circuit gave a former member of the Mexican military a second chance to prove that he needs asylum from the vicious Los Zetas drug cartel.
     Victor Hugo Tapia Madrigal allegedly fled to the United States in 2008 after being kidnapped, beaten and shot at, allegedly by members of the cartel, for his work with military anti-drug forces in the Mexican state of Jalisco.
     He said his troubles began in 2007, when he was shown on national television guarding the transfer of 10 members of the Los Zetas drug cartel who had just been arrested. Soon after the broadcast, masked men kidnapped and beat Tapia Madrigal for 24 hours, and then let him go with a warning to release the prisoners.
     The police commander in the area who refused to do so later turned up dead. While Tapia Madrigal was on a mission later in another part of the country, all of the soldiers involved in the arrests were beheaded, he said. Tapia Madrigal left the military and moved to another town, where a few months later someone shot at him from a moving car.
     Tapia Madrigal said his mother received a threatening letter after he left Mexico, and that unknown people asked his relatives where he had gone.
     He applied for asylum, withholding of removal and relief under the Convention Against Torture in 2009 after the U.S. government started the removal process. An immigration law judge found him ineligible for asylum and the Bureau of Immigration Appeals agreed.
     But Tapia Madrigal found a bit of sympathy in the 9th Circuit on Wednesday. The federal appeals panel in Seattle granted his petition for social group-based asylum for both past persecution and future persecution.
     “The BIA should consider the kidnapping Tapia Madrigal endured while he was in the military, the fates of his fellow soldiers, any post-military incidents the BIA determines are attributable to Los Zetas and any country conditions evidence describing how Los Zetas treat former soldiers who participated in anti-drug activity,” Judge Raymond Fisher wrote for a three-judge panel. “If the BIA concludes that the Mexican government cannot control Los Zetas and that Tapia Madrigal has a well-founded fear of severe mistreatment at their hands, then he is eligible for asylum because a causal nexus would necessarily exist between that mistreatment and his membership in a particular social group.”
     Fisher said the BIA had improperly discounted the incidents that allegedly occurred after Tapia Madrigal left the military.
     “Viewed in context, Tapia Madrigal’s belief that the three post-military incidents are attributable to Los Zetas is more than pure speculation,” he wrote. “The course of conduct and surrounding circumstances provide circumstantial evidence that Los Zetas were the ones who inquired about his whereabouts, shot at him on the street and sent the threatening note. Although it is Tapia Madrigal’s burden to establish his eligibility for asylum, he may satisfy this burden with circumstantial evidence.”
     The panel remanded the case back to the BIA “to determine whether other plausible explanations for the post-military incidents exist and, if so, whether Tapia Madrigal has met his burden to establish that Los Zetas are likely responsible.”

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