Municipal police in Chiapa de Corzo, Chiapas, have been relieved of their duties after the discovery of an extortion and trafficking ring that targeted migrants.
Former agents of the National Immigration Institute (INM) are also believed to have been involved.
Security forces arrested 21 Chiapa de Corzo police officers on Tuesday while they were watching over a busload of 19 Central American migrants and allegedly committing extortion. The Public Security Secretariat had been tipped off by an anonymous caller.
The rest of the Chiapa police force, a little over 100 officers, was temporarily suspended while an investigation continues. To replace them, 200 state police officers were deployed to the municipality.
Among those arrested on charges of human trafficking and extortion was the deputy police chief, Hernán Gómez Grajales, brother of the mayor.
One report said police were communicating with families of the migrants and demanding payments of 3,000 pesos each in exchange for their release. The migrants were reportedly from Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador.
Federal investigators have found that ex-immigration officers have been providing migrants with false documentation and charging as much as US $500 per document. The INM office in Chiapas said there have been 60 cases in recent months of Haitian and African migrants carrying phony documents.
It’s not only former agents who have been up to no good. Officials in Chiapas arrested Freddy Castillo last week for the alleged extortion of $2,000 committed against two Cubans whose passports he had retained.
Three other agents have recently been dismissed in Tapachula for other acts of corruption involving migrants.
The International Organization for Migration estimates that every year some 150,000 migrants irregularly cross Mexico’s southern border.