Wait, isn’t Mexico the country that keeps demanding we treat the illegal immigrants they send over the border with the utmost respect and decency?
For some of the U.S.-bound Cuban migrants who are now at the Siglo XXI detention center in the far southwest Mexican city of Tapachula — and their relatives in the United States — a journey once filled with hope is now overflowing with anguish.
“For weeks, we have been getting calls from somebody demanding money if we want to see our family members again,” said the mother of one of the stranded Cubans who asked not to be identified for fear of retribution against her son.
The woman, who lives in Miami, recounted how half an hour after receiving a call from her son from the detention center, the telephone rang again and again from different numbers in Mexico.
The voice on the other side of the device identified himself only as a lawyer by the name of Padilla.
“He tried to find out the names of our relatives and told us that he could help us get them out of there for a sum of money,” said the Miami mother.
Yuniel, a Cuban migrant also stranded in Tapachula near the border with Guatemala but not in detention, blamed the calls on agents who work for the National Institute of Migration (INM).
“We all know that migration officials have some way of getting the numbers called to the United States. Somehow, they find out the numbers and then take advantage to extort the family,” he alleged.
The telephones at the Siglo XXI used for international calls are public so it is unclear how numbers dialed can be extracted. But at least three relatives of different migrants interviewed said they had received similar calls in which alleged officials asked them for money in exchange for their relatives’ freedom. None of the three agreed to pay and the exchange did not go long enough to discuss specific dollar figures.
“We are afraid of what could happen to them; they are in the hands of mobsters,” said the Miami mother. “Last week, three Cubans disappeared from the same detention center. Nobody knows what happened to them.”
An official of the INM confirmed to el Nuevo Herald on Monday that there are 90 Cubans detained at the Siglo XXI. Of these, 59 requested protection before a judge and 23 sought refuge from the Mexican authorities. The remaining eight are awaiting a decision of the Cuban Embassy in that country. If Havana deems the Cubans as citizens, they must be deported according to the migratory agreements between both nations.
Asked about the alleged disappearance of three migrants from the detention center — identified as Armando Daniel Tejeda, Daniel Benet Báez and Yosvany Leyva Velázquez — the Mexican immigration official said the trio escaped and therefore were not considered “missing.”