EL PASO, Texas (Border Report) – A Cuban national in line to re-enter the United States to pursue an asylum claim has been murdered in Juarez.

Cristian San Martin Estrada, 19, a native of Havana, was shot to death Monday night in Juarez’s famed Plaza del Mariachi, a few blocks from the Paso del Norte International Bridge leading to El Paso.

Police said witnesses told them they heard shots and saw a body lying on the plaza, which straddles the Juarez Avenue tourist strip and a poorly lit backstreet called Mariscal. Police did not divulge details on the shooting nor if they have a motive or possible suspect in custody.

A relative of the victim, interviewed on social media by independent Juarez journalist Judith Torrea, said San Martin had recently been informed in Juarez that he would soon be taken out of the Migrant Protection Protocols (MPP) and allowed into the United States.

“I never thought I would live this experience. We saw this daily in the news – the cruelty, the impunity with the crime here. Be careful. Be very careful,” the man who identified himself as Hendrick told Torrea.

Violence against asylum-seekers forced to await the outcome of their claims in Mexico has been a topic of controversy.

On Tuesday, the Mexico office of the United Nations High Commissioner on Refugees took to Twitter to condemn the murder of San Martin.

“We condemn the murder in Ciudad Juarez of Cristian San Martin Estrada, Cuban asylum seeker under MPP, who would have entered the United States in the next few days. We trust the authorities will exhaustively investigate to solve this regrettable incident,” the UNHCR tweeted.

The agency says it decries violence against refugees and asylum-seekers. It vowed to continue identifying and locating all those who are eligible to be taken out of MPP so they can pursue their claims from inside the United States, not third countries like Mexico.

His uncle described San Martin as smart but quiet who was placed on the MPP program in 2019. The uncle told Torrea he is an American citizen and would be returning to the United States with his belongings and those of his nephew.

The Biden administration on Feb. 19 began taking asylum-seekers out of MPP. So far, more than 10,700 of the original 65,000 petitioners have been allowed to re-enter the United States. Another 18,000 or so with pending active cases are still in line to come out of MPP.

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