Juan Escobedo is a man without a country
Wednesday, 15 February 2012 20:32
Wherefore is light given to him that is in misery, and life unto the bitter in soul?
Book of Job, 3. 20
When Juan Escobedo’s sister Rubí disappeared in August 2009 the family naturally assumed it was a result of the cartels. At 16, Rubí had been dating Sergio Barraza, 25, for two years and they had a two-month-old daughter.
“My mom and myself, we start our own investigation since we didn’t have no support from the police,” said Juan Escobedo, “Femicide is a problem that has been hitting Juarez society since 1993, but since 2003 the cartels rediscovered the market of slavery. Instead of killing the girls they were being kidnapped for sexual purposes.”
Juan’s mother Marisela Escobedo stayed in the police station trying to pressure them into working on the investigation. After a couple months of investigating the family found Barraza in Zacatecas in southern Mexico with a new family.
When Barraza was arrested he confessed to killing Rubí and dumping her body in a garbage pit. Barraza even led the police to the body.
Although searches had been conducted in the area before it was impossible to find the body because it was literally buried under “Thousands of pig bones,” according to Juan “we were only able to recover one third of her body, there were only bones the rest of her had been eaten by animals.”
On April 23, 2010 Barraza had his day in court. Despite leading police to the body and confessing Barraza was found not guilty by a panel of three judges due to lack of evidence.
The confession was rendered invalid by claims that it was given under duress.
Marisela once again jumped into action organizing protests and rallies, eventually putting enough pressure on the government.
One month later after appeal Barraza was found guilty and was sentenced to 50 years in prison. “But it’s just a piece of paper, because this guy is a free man,” said Juan.
The family then marched and protested all the way to Mexico City. The family found Barraza on passing through Zacatecas. Despite telling the police Barraza’s location, Barraza managed to escape joining the Zetas, a major Mexican cartel.
Federal and local authorities refused to investigate out of fear of the cartels said Juan. So, Marisela along with several other family members moved down to Zacatecas to track Barraza’s movements.
On December 8, 2010, Marisela gave all of her information on Barraza to the police and started a vigil on the steps of the governor's palace in Chihuahua, Mexico.
December 16, 2010: Marisela is gunned down on the steps of the governor’s palace.
Two days later right after Marisela's funeral, her brother-in-law was kidnapped and killed. He was found later with in Juarez with a plastic bag over his head. Marisela’s boyfriend’s business was burned to the ground.
He shall return no more to his house, neither shall his place know him any more.
Book of Job, 7. 10
That same day, the whole family decided to cross the border seeking political asylum. Without time to arrange it through the proper channels the family was held in a detention center for three and a half months.
At first Rubí’s daughter, now 2 years old, was taken away and put with a foster family, however the family managed to get her back after 45 days of fighting with the U.S. government.
Juan is now out on parole, he has to wear an ankle bracelet and is unable to fly.
Juan can’t work because of an error at the Immigration and Customs Enforcement bureau.
Juan says that despite ICE admitting fault for the error he is being required to resubmit his application and pay the fee of $640 again.
Juan wants to work to support his wife, Noemi, and his two children, Anahi and Samuel. All three are American citizens.
Unable to work Juan, spends much of his time working with Mexicanos en Exilio, a group for Mexicans forced out of their home country because their government is either unable to or unwilling to help them.
“The Mexican government thinks that just because they make us flee as criminals, because they make us flee from our own house, from our own country, we gonna shut up,” said Juan.
It will be two years before Juan knows what his fate will be. His master asylum hearing will decide whether he may stay in the U.S. or have to leave and is scheduled for September 29, 2014. “If the deny this to me, I will need to find another country,” said Juan, “Mexico is not an option for me.”
I have heard of thee by the hearing of the ear: but now mine eye seeth thee.
Job, 42. 5
Juan recently visited Tucson, Ariz. from El Paso, Texas. He had to ride a bus because flying is a violation of his parole.
Juan spoke with church groups urging them to join their voices with his to decry the injustice he sees in Mexico.
“My main purpose is justice for my sister and my mom,” Juan said, “My case is just on of hundreds of cases like this.” He sees informing the American people of what is going on south of the border as the best way to accomplish change.
One of the main issues Juan wants people to be aware about is the huge amount of guns flowing into Mexico from the southern U.S. People called "straw buyers" are given money by illegal gun dealers and purchase bulk arms from gun stores.
With no limits on the number of guns you can purchase in Arizona it is legal to walk into a store and purchase 100 AK-47s in cash and walk out. Some of these guns will inevitably make it to the cartels.
Another issue Juan wants people to know about is the recruiting the cartels do in the Mexican government. Cartel members are often recruited out of the police, military and from government officials. “It’s not a secret, all society knows,” Juan said.
Once suspicion of being associated with the cartels is there, the person is often able to go underground and disappear within the cartels.
President Calderon’s war on drugs has failed in Juan’s eyes. “Even though he knows that, he hasn’t stopped.”
Given the chance to speak directly with President Calderon, Juan said if he was thinking just for himself he would ask for justice for his family.
Juan said what was more more likely is that he would tell Caleron to “Stop this war, this is not the way."
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