National Immigration Institute (INM) agents demanded US $400 each from 50 Mexicans who entered the country by bus from the United States last week, according to the president of a Chicago-based migrants association.
Rogelio Ávila said agents in Nuevo Laredo, Tamaulipas, extorted or attempted to extort migrants traveling to Guadalajara from Minnesota.
“The bus left Minnesota for Guadalajara with day laborers – farmworkers who were traveling legally through a Mexican program,” he said, referring to a government program that is supposed to provide protection to U.S.-based migrants returning home before holiday periods such as Christmas, or in this case Easter.
According to audio recordings Ávila shared with the newspaper Reforma, some of the migrants told the INM agents that they weren’t carrying such a large quantity of cash. They were subsequently subjected to body searches, with the immigration officials even removing the migrants’ shoes in search of greenbacks.
Ávila said the massive extortion undertaking occurred at 10:30 p.m. last Wednesday at an immigration checkpoint at kilometer 26 on the Nuevo Laredo-Monterrey highway.
“We’re aware that those assholes [the INM agents] are there for money. That’s OK, but not so much,” one of the migrants told Ávila in a voice message. He said the agents concealed their identity, presumably to avoid complaints being made against them.
Extortion payments of $400 are eight times higher than the $50 bribes that INM agents and security force members more commonly ask for. Non-payment could result in being held up by authorities for hours or worse.
Ávila said he filed a complaint with the INM but it was ignored. However, the INM told Reforma that it had opened an investigation into the alleged extortion.
In a written statement, the INM told the newspaper that it wasn’t aware of any formal complaint against the agents stationed at the Nuevo Laredo-Monterrey highway checkpoint.
“However, the INM reaffirms its commitment to attend to any improper action that is reported,” the institute said.
Ávila asserted that he did file a complaint with the INM as well as the National Guard and via the Denuncia Paisano cell phone app, an initiative of the Ministry of Public Administration, the federal government’s internal corruption watchdog.
The INM called on migrants returning home for the Easter vacation period or at any other time to report any improper conduct by Mexican authorities.
There were reports that Mexicans who returned home for the 2021-22 Christmas and New Year holiday season were forced to pay bribes to customs officers, immigration agents, police, members of organized crime gangs and others.
Some Mexicans traveling home from the United States for Easter holidays via Nuevo Laredo last year were pressured to pay tips to police deployed to protect them.
More migrants are expected to enter the country via the northern border in the coming weeks in order to spend the April 10-16 Holy Week period with their Mexico-based families.
With reports from Reforma