A group of Central American migrants who fell victim to a kidnapping scheme in northern Mexico has accused immigration officials in the country of handing them over to drug gangs.

The migrants -- 81 Mexicans, 33 Central Americans and six Chinese nationals -- were traveling northward on separate passenger buses in northern Tamaulipas earlier this year when they were stopped and detained by Mexican immigration officials. According to El Milenio, the officials then handed them over to an armed cell of the Gulf Cartel, who held them hostage in houses throughout the border region.

The migrants were freed in a series of recent military raids on sites throughout Tamaulipas, and have since begun to speak out about their experience. As El Universal reports, the group has filed a lawsuit with the help of the Federal Institute of Public Defense (Instituto Federal de Defensoria Publica- IFDP), which prompted an official investigation into the incident.

Because of this investigation, at least six officers of the National Migration Institute (Instituto Nacional de Migracion - INM) have been arrested in the past month, all of whom were picked out by the migrants from photographs shown to them by federal investigators.

In a May 9 press conference, government security spokesman Alejandro Poire confirmed to the Associated Press that these INM agents have been arrested in connection to the case of the kidnapped migrants, but provided no specific details of the case.

"We emphasize that there will be no tolerance of anyone who calls themselves a civil servant while violating the law or participating in such crimes," Poire said.

Most likely as a result of the scandal, on May 12 the federal government fired the directors of regional INM offices in the states of Tamaulipas, Veracruz, Tabasco, Oaxaca, Mexico State, San Luis Potosi and Quintana Roo. Although officials have stopped short of claiming that similar kidnapping schemes have spread to other states as well, El Universal reports that at least two of these officials are currently under investigation for links to organized crime.

Such corruption is not a new phenomenon, as Mexican police and immigration agents have long been known to be involved in extorting and kidnapping Central American migrants traveling along the dangerous routes through Mexico to the United States. In February, Mexico’s National Human Rights Commission (Comision Nacional de Derechos Humanos) issued a special report on migrant kidnappings, which alleges widespread collusion of government authorities with organized crime.

According to the report, at least 11,333 immigrants were abducted during six months of 2010, while journeying to the U.S., and many of these cases involved corrupt officials. The state that experienced the most kidnappings was Veracruz, followed closely by Tabasco, Tamaulipas, San Luis Potosi and Chiapas.

Investigations

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