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Man who lost legs to drug cartel biking 670 miles for asylum

“It’s a challenge and challenges are meant to be overcome,” a man named Carlos said in an interview just before beginning an extraordinary campaign to end what he believes is a discriminatory policy by the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services that considers victims of violence by Mexican drug cartels low-priority applicants for asylum.

Before 2011, he was living a good life in the State of Chihuahua, with his wife, two kids and a thriving business. Unfortunately, that business made him a target for extortion by the ultra-violent Zetas cartel. Like other local businesspeople, he paid them $10,000 a month for as long as he could. When he could no longer pay, his attorney says, “they made an example of Carlos by chopping off his legs.”

Miraculously, he survived. He brought his family to the U.S. and applied for asylum. It seemed like he had a sure-fire clam -- and he may. The USCIS granted him a work permit, but it has put him on a low-priority list for consideration.

The USCIS grants asylum to people “seeking protection because they have suffered persecution or fear that they will suffer persecution due to race, religion, nationality, membership in a particular social group or political opinion.” Unfortunately, victims of violence by Mexican drug cartels don’t easily fit within those categories, so it’s unclear whether Carlos or other such applicants qualify.

There are many. According to Immigration and Customs Enforcement, nearly 23,400 people fleeing from the Mexican drug war have applied for asylum in the U.S. so far in 2013 alone. Their cases are all on hold, in favor of applicants from countries with the poorest records on political and human rights, such as China, Nepal and Ethiopia.

Carlos could work toward lawful permanent residence, but he believes the U.S.’s asylum policy is deliberately discriminatory against Mexican victims of drug war. His attorney, who founded an advocacy group called Mexicanos En Exilio to fight the policy, says that U.S. officials act as if Mexican immigrants in this situation are trying to game the system.

It’s painful and difficult for Carlos to ride his bike on prosthetic legs, but he forces himself to go on. He knows he’s fighting for thousands of others desperately seeking protection from violence through asylum.

"Each case is different, but at the end of the day we are all here because of security,” he says, riding on.

Source: Fox News Latino, "After Mexican Drug Cartels Took His Legs, Carlos Gutiérrez Cycles For Asylum In The U.S.," Andrew O'Reilly, Nov. 1, 2013

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