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DES MOINES, Iowa — Friends and supporters held a vigil Sunday for the man murdered in Mexico after US officials deported him.

Constantino Morales, 42, was deported to Mexico last year. He had been living illegally in Iowa. Police found Morales dead last Sunday after members of a drug cartel shot him several times.

Family members said Morales, a former Mexican police officer, came to Des Moines to run from the cartel who was threatening to kill him.

Fearing for his life, Morales requested asylum but was denied in 2013.

“Having your life threatened because of your profession is not a category, it’s not a legal category,” said Emily Schott. Schott is a community organizer at Iowa Citizens for Community Improvement, the organization that tried to help Morales.

Schott said asylum is not easily granted. Law states it can only be granted in five different situations: race, religion, nationality, political, and membership of a social group.

In order to help people in similar situations as Morales, Schott said the law needs to change. “The asylum law is far too narrow, we should it expand it. Especially in the case of Central and South America, there is just so much violence going on. People can fear for their lives without fitting into one of these categories.”

Morales twin brother, Leonardo, said what happened was an injustice. “While he was here, he was fighting for immigration reform and beyond that for the rights of people who lived here . . . The bottom line is that we just want to have equal rights. We come here in search of equal opportunities for our families and we just want the right to work, live openly and live peacefully.”

Those who attended the vigil wrote letters to lawmakers urging change. Members of the Iowa CCI will deliver the letters and meet with lawmakers next week in Washington D.C.

Morales was considered leader on immigration reform in the community. He leaves behind a wife and six children.