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Cartels Terrorize Unlawful Migrants in Mexico

U.S. border
U.S. Border I Image by AlxeyPnferov/Getty

Human Rights Watch recently released a report suggesting that the rule requiring potentially unlawful migrants seeking asylum to use an app to book appointments with U.S. immigration authorities is putting them at risk of extortion and violence due to the limited number of appointments being allowed.

According to the group, the CBP One app limits appointments to 1,450 per day as a means to regulate migration into the United States. However, an average of 7,240 migrants per day arrived at the U.S.-Mexico border between May 2023 and January 2024.

“The Biden administration claims that its asylum rule and effectively mandatory use of CBP One will disrupt smuggling networks,” reads an HRW report. “Human Rights Watch has observed that, on the contrary, digital metering in Mexico leaves asylum seekers vulnerable to extortion, kidnapping, and violence. And, with no other way to access protection, asylum seekers are more likely to engage smugglers, further enriching criminal cartels.”

Encounters with unlawful migrants attempting to cross the southern border have significantly increased under President Joe Biden. They are on pace to set near-records in fiscal year 2024, as previously reported by The Dallas Express.

The report by HRW highlighted the dangers unlawful migrants can face by being unable to get an asylum appointment through the app.

According to the group, criminal organizations are taking advantage of the situation by kidnapping migrants and using their phones to extort relatives in the United States. One person interviewed by the organization said they had seen two people shot and killed for refusing to comply.

“It’s systematic,” said Ari Sawyer, a researcher at HRW, speaking with The Guardian. “They kidnap them, put their phones on airplane mode, take photos of them and their documents, then go through their contacts and call U.S. numbers until they find relatives they can extort for dollars.”

HRW said that in some cases, local Mexican officials work with criminal gangs to facilitate kidnappings. The mayor and chief of police in Matehuala, a city in the Mexican state of San Luis Potosí, were arrested for their part in a kidnapping ring.

Additionally, migrants attempting to cross the Sonora Desert to find an entry point into the United States are putting their lives at risk.

Adam Isacson, the director for defense oversight with the Washington Office on Latin America, previously posted a chart on X showing the sharp increase in deaths reported along the border between 2018 and 2022. In 2018, 95 deaths were reported due to environmental causes such as dehydration and exposure. By 2022, that number had climbed to 365 people.

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