State Department Warns U.S. Citizens of Violence in Chihuahua, Mexico

U.S. citizens traveling abroad in or near the state of Chihuahua, Mexico have been warned to remain vigilant for threats of violence after Mexican authorities captured key members of a cartel in the city of Juarez.

One of those captured, Jose Antonio Acosta Hernandez, is a former police officer who has admitted to ordering the deaths of more than 1,500 people near the U.S. border. He is also a suspect in a U.S. consulate employee killing at a border crossing near Juarez.

The U.S. State Department warned that the captures “bring with them the potential for an increase in violence,” and speculated that cartel members could retaliate by targeting members of other cartels, law enforcement authorities or members of the public. The U.S. Consulate in Ciudad Juarez and ports of entry to the U.S. are areas where U.S. citizens should remain especially vigilant, the State Department said, as the Department had obtained information that these locations could be targeted, perhaps with a car bomb.

The state of Chihuahua is on the northern side of Mexico, adjacent to the U.S. states of Texas and New Mexico. The city of Juarez, infamous as a drug cartel stronghold, sits on the northern border of Chihuahua near El Paso, Texas. Prior to 2009, Juarez held the highest murder rate in the world at 130 murders per 100,000 residents. There were 3,075 homicides in 2010, most of which have been linked to drug cartel violence.

The State Department offers the Smart Traveler Enrollment Program, or STEP, for those who travel abroad to dangerous areas. STEP is a free program that lets travelers enter information about their upcoming trip so that the Department of State can better assist such persons in case of an emergency. It also helps traveling Americans to find information about the locations of the nearest embassies or U.S. consulate offices.

Many Mexicans have sought asylum in the U.S. due to cartel violence. Asylum requests reached a record 5,551 last year, according to figures released by the government. Only 165 of these requests were granted.

Stewart Rabinowitz is President of Dallas-based Rabinowitz & Rabinowitz, P.C. Mr. Rabinowitz is Board Certified in Immigration and Nationality Law by the Texas Board of Legal Specialization. To contact a Dallas immigration lawyer or Dallas immigration attorney, please visit http://www.rabinowitzrabinowitz.com.