EL PASO, Texas (Reuters) - A 20-year-old woman police chief fired after abandoning her post in one of Mexico’s most dangerous drug war towns is in the United States, authorities said on Tuesday.
The U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency confirmed that Marisol Valles, the former police chief of Praxedis G. Guerrero near Mexico’s violent city of Ciudad Juarez, is in the United States pending a hearing before a U.S. federal immigration judge.
“Valles-Garcia is in the United States and she will have the opportunity to present the facts of her case before an impartial immigration judge,” said an ICE official, who cannot be named as he was commenting on background.
The El Paso Times newspaper reported Valles had been taken to a detention center in the Texas border city. Reuters was unable to confirm the report.
Valles was fired on Monday by the town’s mayor for not showing up to work after Mexican media reported she had received death threats.
Her absence prompted media speculation she had sought asylum over the border in the United States.
The ICE official declined to give further details on her case, “absent a signed privacy waiver.”
A feisty criminology student, Valles took charge of the police force in the town — a few miles south of the border from El Paso — last October, sparking intense media attention after few candidates dared to apply for the dangerous job.
The mother of an infant son, she was due back at her post this week after taking leave on March 2 to attend to personal matters, but a Mexican newspaper reported she had fled the country after being threatened by drug gangs.
Valles, a petite woman with black glasses, amazed many Mexicans with her courage for taking up the post just days after drug hitmen killed the mayor in a nearby town in a region where many police officers have quit or been killed.
With some 8,000 killings in and around Ciudad Juarez over the past three years, the region has become one of the world’s deadliest places and is gripped by lawlessness as gangs fight over smuggling routes into the United States, local drug sales, and lucrative extortion and kidnapping rackets.
Reporting by Alejandro Martinez-Cabrera; Editing by Tim Gaynor and Robin Emmott