DALLAS (AP) – A police officer from the violent border city of Ciudad Juarez who fled to the U.S. along with his wife and children asked for asylum Tuesday in a Dallas immigration courtroom.

Jose Alarcon, 27, and his attorney must prove that as a municipal officer, Alarcon belonged to a persecuted social group and the government was unable to protect him.

Alarcon’s attorney, Ludo Perez Gardini, told a North Texas newspaper that he believes Alarcon was a specific target because he was an officer who dared to arrest the wrong people. He also said he believes Alarcon was set up to be hunted.

A U.S. government attorney declined to comment on the pending case.

More than 4,000 people have been killed in Ciudad Juarez, across the border from El Paso, in drug-related violence in the past two years. The city has one of the highest murder rates in the world.

“The ones who command are the cartels, not the government,” Alarcon said recently from his lawyer’s office.

Alarcon was 21 when he became a policeman after completing his military service.

“I was young, and I wanted to do things right, and I do believe in justice,” he said. “My partner told me I wouldn’t last long.”  A day after the pair detained two drug dealers on a traffic violation in April 2008, they were in a gunfight that Alarcon believes was revenge. His partner was seriously wounded after firing only twice and later died in another hit.

Alarcon was shot in the leg and cut by flying glass during the gunfight. He’d also emptied all 15 rounds in his Beretta 9 mm. But he said he was ordered back to work immediately and refused fresh ammunition. It occurred to him, he said, that his own bosses were setting him up to be killed.

Soon after, he and his wife, Claudia, and their two children fled across the Bridge of the Americas into El Paso. He now has a third child, and the family has been living in Texas as they wait for their case to be heard.

Asylum applications from Mexicans before immigration judges jumped to nearly 3,800 in fiscal year 2010, up about 35 percent from a year earlier and the highest level in five years. But less than 2 percent of those who applied in 2010 were ultimately granted asylum, according to information obtained through Freedom of Information Act requests by Syracuse University’s Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse.

Asylum petitions at the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service also increased for Mexicans, through a different process, to 2,320 last fiscal year. About 5 percent received approval.

The approval rates frustrate Eduardo Beckett, the managing attorney at Las Americas Immigrant Advocacy Center in El Paso, where at least five potential clients walk in weekly asking for asylum.

“We have an international crisis,” he said. “We have an absolute duty to stand up for those who are risking their lives for something created by U.S. society: We are the biggest consumers of drugs.”

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