Hastings International and Comparative Law Review


Katy Mann


In 2010, Jorge Luis Aguirre became the first known journalist from Mexico to receive asylum in the United States. Aguirre, like many of his colleagues, had received several threats to his life for reporting on the drug-related violence and government corruption in Mexico. In fact, since Felipe Calderon assumed the presidency in Mexico in December 2006, more than thirty journalists in the country have been murdered or have disappeared. Faced with the possibility of becoming the next casualty in the ongoing drug war, several Mexican journalists have fled to the United States to apply for asylum.

Although the United States asylum system has historically failed to protect journalists facing persecution, United States asylum laws can and should provide relief for threatened journalists in Mexico, either under the "political opinion" or "particular social group" category, which are two of the five grounds under which a person can gain asylum or withholding of deportation under the refugee definition. This Note examines current United States interpretations of and requirements for the "particular social group" category for asylum, and argues that this category can and should be used to grant asylum to threatened journalists from Mexico. This Note concludes that granting asylum to journalists facing a well-founded fear of persecution is consistent with the language of the Refugee Act, as well as the humanitarian purposes of refugee protection, and is in the best interest of the United States in its quest to end the drug violence in Mexico.