TIJUANA (Reuters) – A large Mexican family crossed into the United States on Sunday seeking asylum after threats from suspected criminals forced them to flee their avocado farm, a migrants group said on Monday, underscoring how lawlessness in Mexico pushes many to leave.
Migrant advocacy group Al Otro Lado reported that 32 members of the Peña family fled their homes in western Michoacan state seven months after receiving violent threats from unspecified cartel members.
They left the Mexican border city of Tijuana on Sunday night, hoping to eventually reunite with family already in the United States, the group added.
Despite avocados’ status as a key Mexican farm export to U.S. buyers, raging gangland violence in the heart of the fruit’s major growing area in Michoacan, plus Guerrero and Zacatecas states, has often disrupted the $2.8 billion avocado business.
U.S. authorities paused Mexican avocado exports earlier this year, after American inspectors reported threats in Michoacan.
“We can’t live here in peace,” said Mayra Peña, according to the group’s report, adding she feared for the safety of her children in Michoacan.
Brigite Baltasar, an activist with the migrants group, criticized what she described as official inaction as part of the problems facing threatened families like the Peñas.
“It’s sad and depressing that the government doesn’t do anything,” she said.
Mexico’s security ministry did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Asylum-seekers can enter the United States as soon as their case is active under new rules enacted by the government of U.S President Joe Biden, in a reversal of restrictions put in place by the previous administration.
Even so, Mexican asylum-seekers face long odds, according to Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse, with only 15% of applications approved between 2001 and 2021, below the rates for Hondurans, Haitians and Guatemalans.
(Reporting by Jorge Nieto in Tijuana; Writing by Isabel Woodford; Editing by David Alire Garcia and Matthew Lewis)