INS officials concede that the challenge was highly unusual. "The condition [required] for us to appeal, in those very rare cases that we do it, is if we feel the judge has erred in his or her reading of the law," said an INS spokesman based in Washington, D.C.
This May, the board overturned Gordon's decision and issued a 10-page ruling in favor of the INS. The panel held that while the Aburto family has suffered "acts of violence," they could not credibly claim that they would face further persecution if returned to Mexico. The panel agreed that while the family may have been repeatedly struck and threatened by police in the days that followed the murder, "[a]n alien must do more than simply show physical abuse, or civil-rights or human-rights violations, in order to demonstrate persecution within the meaning of the Act."
Peter Schey, an attorney representing the family and an associate at the Center for Human Rights and Constitutional Law, responded sarcastically to the ruling: "What the government is, in essence, saying is that whatever conditions they face in Mexico are just the normal by product of being the family of someone convicted of assassinating a presidential candidate."
The U.S. deliberations on the future of the Aburto family are drawing close interest south of the border, where the Colosio assassination remains one of the defining moments of the current political era. Mexico-City journalists contacted by the Weekly said while they do not see immediate danger for the Aburtos if they are deported, many others do.
"Look, I as a Mexican believe there has been some kind of plot in the Colosio murder," says Reymundo Reva Palacio, a columnist with the daily El Financiero. "I don't think the Aburto family faces political persecution. But I think that if the family is given asylum by the U.S., the reading of that decision by the Mexican people will be that the family does face political persecution. And I think that right now popular opinion believes there is a conspiracy, and it goes so far as to [claim] that Carlos Salinas is part of that plot. That is just the conventional wisdom."
"I guess you could say that here in Mexico many people believe there is a lot more to this story," agreed Roberto Rock Lechon, editor of El Universal, a conservative Mexico City newspaper owned by a close friend of the slain candidate. "It's not unlike the Kennedy murder in your country."
In the meantime, attorneys for the Aburto family have filed an appeal in federal court. "I don't know if the Mexican government is putting pressure on the INS," said Carlos Holguin, one of the attorneys representing the family. "But I can tell you that if Mario Aburto's family is forced to return to Mexico, it will certainly put their son in a much more vunerable position, because he might fear for his family's life."