A man whose legs were sawn off by a Mexican gang after he refused to be extorted is cycling across Texas to raise awareness of asylum and immigration issues.

Organised criminals had demanded Carlos Gutierrez, 35, pay $10,000 a month from his successful catering business, reports the Texas Tribune.

When he refused he was forced into the back of a car in Chihuahua by four men who then cut his legs off just below the knee as he was still conscious.

carlos gutierrez

Carlos Gutierrez

He has applied for asylum in the United States but will struggle to convince the government to let him stay as they rarely recognise Mexican nationals as being in credible fear of persecution.

He is cycling across Texas to raise awareness of his plight as well as that of thousands of other Mexicans.

He told AP: "'If someone from Cuba or from Venezuela can get asylum, why not someone from Mexico?"

Gutierrez started his ride in El Paso on 29 October and reached Austin 700 miles away 12 days later on the 9 November.

Upon completing his ride he broke down in tears.

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  • Carlos Gutierrez

    Cyclist Carlos Gutierrez, a double amputee, is silhouetted against the Mexico flag during a stop at the Mexican Consulate, Thursday, Nov. 7, 2013, in San Antonio. Gutierrez, a Mexican asylum seeker who fled to the U.S. after extortionists cut his legs off for not paying the extortion fees, is riding his bike from El Paso, Texas to Austin, Texas, to raise awareness on the situation of political asylum seekers. (AP Photo/Eric Gay)

  • Carlos Gutierrez

    Cyclist Carlos Gutierrez, a double amputee, stands with his bike, Thursday, Nov. 7, 2013, in San Antonio. Gutierrez, a Mexican asylum seeker who fled to the U.S. after extortionists cut his legs off for not paying the extortion fees, is riding his bike from El Paso, Texas to Austin, Texas, to raise awareness on the situation of political asylum seekers. (AP Photo/Eric Gay)

  • Carlos Gutierrez

    Cyclist Carlos Gutierrez, a double amputee, center, stands with his bike during a stop at the Mexican Consulate, Thursday, Nov. 7, 2013, in San Antonio. Gutierrez, a Mexican asylum seeker who fled to the U.S. after extortionists cut his legs off for not paying the extortion fees, is riding his bike from El Paso, Texas to Austin, Texas, to raise awareness on the situation of political asylum seekers. (AP Photo/Eric Gay)

  • Carlos Gutierrez

    Cyclist Carlos Gutierrez, a double amputee, is followed by news media as he pushes his bike during a stop, Thursday, Nov. 7, 2013, in San Antonio. Gutierrez, a Mexican asylum seeker who fled to the U.S. after extortionists cut his legs off for not paying the extortion fees, is riding his bike from El Paso, Texas to Austin, Texas, to raise awareness on the situation of political asylum seekers. (AP Photo/Eric Gay)

  • Carlos Gutierrez

    Cyclist Carlos Gutierrez, a double amputee, is silhouetted against the Mexico flag during a stop at the Mexican Consulate, Thursday, Nov. 7, 2013, in San Antonio. Gutierrez, a Mexican asylum seeker who fled to the U.S. after extortionists cut his legs off for not paying the extortion fees, is riding his bike from El Paso, Texas to Austin, Texas, to raise awareness on the situation of political asylum seekers. (AP Photo/Eric Gay)

  • Carlos Gutierrez

    Cyclist Carlos Gutierrez, a double amputee, center, stands with his bike during a stop at the Mexican Consulate, Thursday, Nov. 7, 2013, in San Antonio. Gutierrez, a Mexican asylum seeker who fled to the U.S. after extortionists cut his legs off for not paying the extortion fees, is riding his bike from El Paso, Texas to Austin, Texas, to raise awareness on the situation of political asylum seekers. (AP Photo/Eric Gay)

  • Carlos Gutierrez

    Cyclist Carlos Gutierrez, a double amputee, rides his bike, Thursday, Nov. 7, 2013, in San Antonio. Gutierrez, a Mexican asylum seeker who fled to the U.S. after extortionists cut his legs off for not paying the extortion fees, is riding his bike from El Paso, Texas to Austin, Texas, to raise awareness on the situation of political asylum seekers. (AP Photo/Eric Gay)

  • Carlos Gutierrez

    Cyclist Carlos Gutierrez, right, a double amputee, rides his bike, Thursday, Nov. 7, 2013, in San Antonio. Gutierrez, a Mexican asylum seeker who fled to the U.S. after extortionists cut his legs off for not paying the extortion fees, is riding his bike from El Paso, Texas to Austin, Texas, to raise awareness on the situation of political asylum seekers. (AP Photo/Eric Gay)

  • Carlos Gutierrez

    Cyclist Carlos Gutierrez, a double amputee, center, gets a hug from a supporter during a stop at the Mexican Consulate, Thursday, Nov. 7, 2013, in San Antonio. Gutierrez, a Mexican asylum seeker who fled to the U.S. after extortionists cut his legs off for not paying the extortion fees, is riding his bike from El Paso, Texas to Austin, Texas, to raise awareness on the situation of political asylum seekers. (AP Photo/Eric Gay)

  • Carlos Gutierrez

    Cyclist Carlos Gutierrez, a double amputee, is followed by new media as he pushes his bike during a stop, Thursday, Nov. 7, 2013, in San Antonio. Gutierrez, a Mexican asylum seeker who fled to the U.S. after extortionists cut his legs off for not paying the extortion fees, is riding his bike from El Paso, Texas to Austin, Texas, to raise awareness on the situation of political asylum seekers. (AP Photo/Eric Gay)

  • Carlos Gutierrez

    Cyclist Carlos Gutierrez, a double amputee, rides his bike past the Mexican Consulate, Thursday, Nov. 7, 2013, in San Antonio. Gutierrez, a Mexican asylum seeker who fled to the U.S. after extortionists cut his legs off for not paying the extortion fees, is riding his bike from El Paso, Texas to Austin, Texas, to raise awareness on the situation of political asylum seekers. (AP Photo/Eric Gay)


He said: "This is something extraordinary, this is something beautiful.

"This is a noble cause, this is a pacifist movement."

Gutierrez hopes to convince American officials that Mexicans are being forced from their country by violent drug gangs who operate almost with impunity.

He said: "It’s not a game, it’s due to the circumstances that we are here."

More than 90% of cases are rejected.

He has received massive support along his ride and has become a focal point for those affected by violence in South America.

Asylum-Seeker Completes "Pedaling for Justice" Ride
by Julián Aguilar November 9, 2013 1 Comment
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Carlos Gutierrez holds up his bike in front of the Texas Capitol on November 9th, 2013 after a 12 day bike ride across Texas.
Enlargephoto by: Marjorie Kamys Cotera
Carlos Gutierrez holds up his bike in front of the Texas Capitol on November 9th, 2013 after a 12 day bike ride across Texas.
After pedaling more than 700 miles over 12 days through dozens of Texas cities and towns that witnessed his infectious laughter, Mexico’s latest symbol of hope in a war-ravaged country finally broke down.

Carlos Gutierrez — a businessman and Chihuahua native whose legs were cut off by Mexican gang members for failing to pay a $10,000 monthly extortion demand — arrived in Austin on Saturday after leaving El Paso on Oct. 29 with three other cyclists on his “Pedaling for Justice” tour.

“This is something extraordinary, this is something beautiful,” Gutierrez, who uses prosthetic legs, tearfully said after being welcomed with chants of “Justicia! Justicia!” (Justice! Justice!) by a small but enthusiastic crowd at the headquarters of Austin’s Workers Defense Project. “This is a noble cause, this is a pacifist movement.”

Hours earlier, outside of San Marcos, Gutierrez said the purpose of his bike tour is to raise awareness about the impunity for violent criminals in Mexico and to support his fellow asylum seekers. What it isn’t, he said, is a protest of the United States government.

“I am very thankful to this country,” he said. “I don’t have anything against it.”


But what Gutierrez does push back against are claims that asylum seekers fleeing violence in Mexico are abusing the system. Lawmakers have raised concerns that some petitioners looking for any way to enter this country are trying to game the system.

“It’s not a game, it’s due to the circumstances [in Mexico] that we are here,” he said. In Austin, Gutierrez was flanked by members of Mexicanos en Exilio, a group founded in 2008 by his attorney, Carlos Spector. It comprises more than 100 families affected by the violence in Mexico.

Spector says U.S. asylum laws make it difficult for Mexicans fleeing violence. Petitioners must prove to immigration officials — either an immigration judge or an asylum officer – that they have a warranted fear of persecution or death due to several factors, including religion, ethnicity, participation in a political group or sexual orientation. More than 90 percent of those requests are denied, however.

Gutierrez was allowed to temporarily live and work in the U.S. But the status he seeks, a legal resident granted political asylum, has yet to come and until a final decision is rendered, he is limbo. Spector said he would file a motion next week to request that Gutierrez and his family get a hearing before an asylum officer with U.S. Citizen and Immigration Services, rather a likely more adversarial meeting with an immigration judge.

While he waits, Gutierrez said, he wanted to do something inspiring.

“There is always something good that comes from the bad,” he said. “I saw it and I thank God that he made me see that.”

He acknowledges that the media attention and support he’s received can only help his case. But those riding with him say the ripple effects of the ride have sparked hope across the state for others facing a variety of challenges.

Ben Foster, an organizer with Velo El Paso who have supported Gutierrez, said: "It was all sorts of people: Mexicans, Guatemalans or Caucasians

"Each either had a story about how they were personally affected by the drug war or how he helped them channel their loss and grief."

The entire trip was made possible by the generosity of Eddie Zepeda, a prosthetic surgeon who provided the limbs worth $32,000 (£20,000) for free.

Gutierrez said: "It doesn't matter how grave your wound was. What matters is that you get up. I have no legs, but I am on my feet."