A Story of Kidnapping in Mexico

By Jerry Kammer, July 16, 2009

The report by Mexico s National Commission on Human Rights about the kidnapping of thousands of mostly Central American migrants on their way through Mexico is a remarkable catalog of abuses committed not only by gangs but also by Mexican law enforcement officials who carry out the kidnappings. I learned of such a case in 2005. It involved two Salvadorans who told me of being detained by Mexican immigration officials as they approached the border city of Reynosa.

I spoke to the two men, Miguel Angel and Gustavo, after they had crossed into the United States. Here is a brief account, assembled from my notes at the time:

When the official stopped Miguel Angel and Gustavo, they tried to pass themselves off as Mexicans from the state of Veracruz. But their accent gave them away. The official said they would be able to continue their journey if they reached an agreement with a friend of the official. If not, they would be arrested and deported. They agreed to talk with the friend.

The official called the friend, who arrived shortly thereafter and drove them to the Hotel El Sol, near the Rio Grande River. He said it would cost each of the men $1,000 to be allowed to continue. They were held there for two days, watching TV, until the money was wired from El Salvador. There were other migrants being held at the hotel, perhaps as many as 30.

After their release, they paddled in inner tubes across the Rio Grande. They were apprehended near McAllen by the Border Patrol, which at the time lacked the resources to hold OTMs (other than Mexican) illegal immigrants for deportation. As was commonplace at the time, the Border Patrol released them with an order to appear for a hearing in immigration court in Baltimore. The two men were headed to the Maryland suburbs of Washington, D.C., where Gustavo had relatives.

Footnotes: This story is included in a book that is being written by Miguel Angel, a former member of El Salvador s National Civil Police, who had come to the U.S. in hopes of earning more than his $300 monthly salary. He worked in construction in Maryland for about a year and has since returned to El Salvador. He is hoping to have the book published.

The National Human Rights Commission report cites "inefficiency in the justice system to prevent, investigate, pursue and punish" the kidnapping of migrants. It suggests that the involvement of public officials in many of the kidnappings may help account for the lack of official interest.