For 20 years Patricia Morales Del Bosque lived in the small town of Salltio, Mexico, but over the course of her last few years violence erupted as the drug war spun out of control.
“My dad was driving home from work, and he got stopped randomly in the middle of the highway with a gun and he had to leave his car. He walked about 15 miles to get home that day,” said Morales Del Bosque, a senior majoring in public relations.
Her own life was put in danger soon after.
“I was pulling into the grocery store when it happened to me,” she said. “Out of nowhere there was four men with big guns pointed at me, telling me to get out of the car. It was scary, I heard of it happening everywhere, but I didn’t think it would happen to me.”
It was then that her family decided to seek asylum in the United States. Her father, who works for an international company, was able to put in a job transfer request alongside many of his co-workers.
The transfer brought the Morales Del Bosque family to Houston and Patricia to Sam Houston State University.
Many more Mexican individuals and families are fleeing the violence in Mexico and seeking asylum in the United States and study at SHSU despite the fact that political asylum is almost never granted in these cases.
Junior political science major Robert Rodriguez said that living in Mexico is insecure. There are kidnappings, gun fights and violence surrounding you on a daily basis.
“When it first started in 2002 people were scared constantly,” Rodriguez said. “You had to learn to avoid situations. You couldn’t go out at night, places you used to go to you couldn’t pass without the fear of being shot.”
According to U.S. Department of Homeland Security figures, more than 23,000 Mexicans sought political asylum in the first nine months of 2013, four times the number of requests made in 2009.
After an attempted kidnapping in Pueblo, Mexico, junior political science major Guillermo Villarreal’s family told him to leave.
“I was driving around when two cars tried to kidnap me,” Villarreal said. “They didn’t get to though because I was in an armored car. My dad told me that night that I needed to leave, and not come back until it was safe.”
The swelling number of pleas for entry is driven by the overwhelming growth of cartel, military and police official terrorism against everyday townspeople, according to The Human Rights Watch.
While families hope for asylum from the dangers that thrive in Mexico, some officials do not believe there is a legal reason for it to be granted.
“These people don’t have a legitimate claim,” former Treasury Department official Peter Nunez said in an interview with The New York Daily News. “They’re not being persecuted by their government. They should seek the help of authorities for public safety claims. It’s not the American government’s role to do what the Mexican government cannot do.”
However, the government is a major part of the problem and why Mexican citizens are wanting asylum. According to the Latin American Tribune, authorities are paid $90 million each ear from the drug cartel.
Morales Del Bosque said that the problem in Mexico is made worse by the police. Officials she said are not always there for everyone’s safety, but for the safety of the criminals.
“We were pulled over once by a police officer for no reason, and he demanded we give him money to get a “code” so we don’t get a ticket from the next officer. If we didn’t do it he was going to charge us for something ridiculous,” Morales Del Bosque said. “You don’t know who’s with who in Mexico, everyone is corrupt.”
These cases of corruption and violence are the main reason immigrants have flooded immigration offices with claims of asylum. However, most requests for asylum are rejected by U.S. immigration judges. In 2013 only 1 percent of the claims were approved.
Many areas of U.S. are receiving Mexican immigrants, whether it is illegally, through visas or by asylum. In Harris County area there were 496,700 Mexican immigrants in 2013 according to the Migration Policy institute û the second largest population in the nation.
At Sam Houston State University that population is smaller. According to Pat Herrington, international student advisor, the university accepted 24 students on visas from Mexico this year. However, that number has been rising each year.
The students who have come to SHSU have said that living here is quite different.
The freedom they feel to go out to a bar on the weekend, or walk down the street at 4 a.m. is something that they couldn’t do in Mexico.
“In Mexico it is unsafe to be outside after a certain time. You can easily be robbed, kidnapped, or shot. No one is safe.” Rodriguez said. “Here I can go out on a walk at any time and not be worried.”
Knowing that their family wants them to return home when they graduate Morales Del Bosque and Villarreal said that it is unlikely that they will return.
“Mexico is where I grew up, but here is where I will stay,” Morales Del Bosque said.