Jorge Luis Aguirre, editor of Ciudad Juarez-based online newspaper La Polaka, has been awaiting asylum since he fled across the border to El Paso, Texas, in November 2008 upon receiving telephone threats after another Juarez journalist's murder.
The State Department, which makes decisions on asylum, had no comment. "For the protection of the individuals, we can't confirm, deny or otherwise comment publicly on applications for asylum," Agence France Presse quoted spokesman Mark Toner as saying.
Aguirre, who testified last year before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee about the perils of being a journalist in Mexico, is the first Mexican reporter to be granted political asylum in the U.S. since the wave of violence began in 2006, and his successful petition could pave the way for other members of the Mexican press seeking protection.
"I can breathe again ... this asylum opens the door to journalists caught in the middle in Mexico, where there is no justice and where the [local] governments are part of drug trafficking," Aguirre told Reuters on Tuesday.
At least four other Mexican reporters are exiled in the U.S. and seeking asylum, according to the non-profit Border Network for Human Rights.
More than 28,000 people have died since Mexican President Felipe Calderon ordered thousands of troops to combat cartels fighting for lucrative trafficking routes along Mexico's borders in December 2006.
Although government officials have mainly attributed the death toll to violence among rival cartels, several heavily publicized killings this year indicate the gangs are willing to attack others as well.
Mexican journalists who can't be bribed or intimidated have become targets, and not just of the drug lords.
In June 2008, Mexican reporter Emilio Gutierrez fled Ascension, Chihuahua, with his 15-year-old son after receiving death threats from the Mexican military for reporting on its abuses.
He sought asylum in New Mexico and was held in a U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement detention facility for eight months. He was released in January 2009 and will have an asylum hearing next January.
"I have been a reporter for 28 years, only interrupted by the two I've spent in exile in the U.S.," Gutierrez told AOL News. "I fled the violence that is terrorizing Mexico. I had become a victim of the Mexican government's incompetence."
Alejandro Hernandez Pacheco, a Mexican television cameraman who was kidnapped and tortured, said this week he is also seeking U.S. asylum, arguing the Mexican government can no longer protect him from increasing attacks on the press.
Hernandez Pacheco was kidnapped after covering a riot at a Coahuila prison in July. His captors ordered him at gunpoint to demand that his employer, Televisa, broadcast four homemade videos. Televisa didn't comply, but he was released anyway, only to be held for another month by Mexican authorities, he told the El Paso Times.
There has been a renewed call in recent days for asylum for persecuted members of the Mexican media following last week's killing of a young photojournalist in Ciudad Juarez.
Luis Santiago Orozco, 21, who worked for the Juarez daily El Diario, was gunned down Sept. 16 in the parking lot of a shopping mall in Juarez, becoming the newspaper's second murdered employee in two years.
A Chihuahua state attorney's office spokesman told CNN Monday the murder was not related to Orozco's work.
"We don't want to see more dead. We don't want to see more wounded nor do we want to be intimidated. It is impossible for us to do our job under these conditions. Tell us, then, what you expect from us, as a newspaper?" the editors wrote.
"This is not a surrender," they added. "This is about a truce with those who have imposed the force of their law in this city, so that you will respect the lives of those who dedicate themselves to the job of informing the public."
More than 30 journalists or media workers have been murdered or have vanished in Mexico since December 2006, the Committee to Protect Journalists reported this month.
Orozco was the 11th Mexican journalist to be murdered this year.