Mexican law enforcement officials are walking into U.S. ports of entry in increasing numbers to seek political asylum, and the flow may soon become a flood as Mexico's battle with the drug cartels intensifies. Our first instinct is to welcome them, but there is more at stake than humanitarian sentiments.
The problem is that if our immigration laws are stretched to grant asylum to law enforcement personnel on the grounds that their own government cannot protect them, any Mexican threatened by these violent criminal gangs can claim the same right of asylum.
U.S. immigration law does not easily accommodate these law enforcement cases because they are fleeing threats from organized crime --- the Mexican drug cartels --- not political persecution by their government. If our laws are stretched to accept thousands of refugees from drug cartel violence, it will only exacerbate Mexico's problems.
We can sympathize with the Mexican police chief or prosecutor who lands on a cartel hit list because he will not play ball with them. The Mexican federal government seemingly cannot protect him and his family, so he flees to El Paso or Nogales and seeks asylum. The number of such asylum applications more than doubled in the first six months of 2008 compared to the same period in 2007, but very few have been approved. What will happen if we do not accept these asylum applications as a humanitarian gesture? What will happen if we do?
The rising number of asylum seekers from Mexican law enforcement and the professional classes is a new phenomenon, not merely another facet of our open borders fiasco. These people are not swimming the Rio Grande or sneaking across the Sonora desert. They are walking into our border ports of entry from Texas to California and asking for protection. We must respect them for following our laws and doing it the right way. But we must also ask some hard questions before throwing open our gates. Humanitarian concerns must be balanced against other considerations --- because the fate of Mexico hangs in that balance.
What happens to Mexico if all the good cops flee to the U.S. or Europe and the only ones left are working hand-in-glove with the criminals? What are the consequences if all the honest judges and prosecutors flee and only dishonest ones are left in charge of the courts? What happens if honest businessmen find it easy to flee to San Diego, Houston or Phoenix and only those who will do the cartels' money laundering are running the nation's trucking companies, farms, and banks?