(CN) – An informant who infiltrated a Mexican drug cartel and helped nab 50 high-profile drug traffickers won’t be deported back to Mexico where he’d face “almost certain death,” the 8th Circuit ruled.
The decision vacated the Board of Immigration Appeals’ determination that Guillermo Peyro should be removed from the United States after he participated in several killings while working undercover.
Peyro left his job as a Mexican high police officer in 1995 and became involved in the drug-trafficking trade, where he “oversaw the warehousing and distribution of large amounts of cocaine,” according to the ruling.
He became a confidential informant for the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement in 2000, and infiltrated the Carillo Fuentes Cartel, where he “witnessed Mexican police officers murder individuals at the behest of the cartel, saw cartel members participate in many other killings in the presence of Mexican police officers, and further witnessed police cover-ups of those crimes.”
As an informant, Peyro helped the U.S. government arrest 50 accused drug traffickers, including the cartel’s top lieutenant, Heriberto Santillan, and provided testimony to the Mexican government implicating Santillan in murders of the cartel’s rivals.
He also confessed to his involvement in numerous criminal activities while in Mexico.
There have since been two attempts on his life. The U.S. government placed him protective custody in 2004, and has a “list of over 45 individuals in prison who may wish to harm him based on his work for the United States.”
He has been paid $220,000 for his work, and was given immunity from prosecution.
But questions remained as to whether he was granted immunity from prosecution in Mexico, which has not offered such protection.
When his parole permit expired in 2005, Peyro said he was told that he would be given legal permanent resident status in the United States for his work.
An immigration judge twice ruled that he should not be sent back to Mexico because it was likely he would be tortured or killed by Mexican police. Each time the Board of Immigration Appeals overturned the decision.
In its decision, the St. Louis-based appeals court determined that the immigration board inappropriately narrowed its analysis of the law, and ruled that “the violence (Peyro) faces … is an occupational hazard of working on behalf of the U.S. government.”
The court continued: “This is not the type of hazard that we would like to encourage would-be informants to avoid for fear of it being used against them when they seek protection.”