EL PASO, Texas (Border Report) – Cases of immigration fraud are on the rise in Juarez, Mexico, where an average of four to five people each week are arrested for showing up at the U.S. Consulate with fake identity documents.
Visa fraud is one of the reasons Chihuahua state authorities are opening an office in Juarez to investigate immigration-related crimes. The other is that international citizens coming to the border continue to be victims of violent crimes such as kidnapping.
At least 15 migrants from Honduras, Guatemala and the interior of Mexico have been freed from kidnappers since September, authorities in Juarez report.
The new Specialized Investigative Unit for Immigration Crimes will begin operations in the next few weeks in Juarez, said Carlos Huerta, a spokesman for the Chihuahua Attorney General’s Office.
The unit consists of three investigators, two analysts and a prosecutor who’ll put together cases against those who falsify documents or steal identities. The unit also will assist state investigators looking into crimes committed against migrants, Huerta said.
“We are seeing cases of (Mexican) citizens who go to solicit visas with false documents. When that happens (the U.S. Consulate) notify us and we conduct arrests,” Deputy Attorney General Jorge Nava said. “We’re talking about false documents, fake employment letters and check stubs.”
The U.S. Department of State suspended routine visa services worldwide in March 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Last July, U.S. embassies and consulates began a phased resumption of routine visa services. The State Department website says it issued 157,225 visas worldwide in December alone, with 27,824 of those being BBBCC class visas issued to Mexicans.
The Attorney General’s Office said the consulate donated the equipment for the office.
It’s not immediately clear how the office will assist prosecutions against those who commit crimes against migrants.
Groups urge Mexico to protect migrants against violent crime
Organizations like Human Rights Watch since 2019 have been sounding off alarms about the violence inflicted on migrants in Mexican border cities including rape, kidnapping and murder.
Numbers are hard to come by, but Juarez police have documented at least four kidnapping cases in the past four months.
- Sept. 20, 2020 – Two women from Guatemala flagged down municipal police officers saying they had fled a house where a Mexican woman and her partner were holding them for ransom. Juarez police arrested the woman, who allegedly had asked the women’s families for $4,500 for their release.
- Nov. 3 – Chihuahua state police arrested three men in a farming community southeast of Juarez after a gun battle. The men were suspected in the kidnapping of three Mexican men, but police rescued seven migrants when they raided the men’s safe houses.
- Nov. 6 – Juarez police arrested a couple for allegedly keeping two Honduran women and two children captive in a hotel room in Downtown Juarez. The 34-year-old Mexican woman with a history of drug arrests and her 32-year-old partner were allegedly demanding $1,000 from the Honduran’s relatives for their release. The migrants were set free after someone in the hotel called police to say women were screaming next door.
- Dec. 10 – A Honduran woman and her young daughter went into a safe house expecting to be transported to the United States. Instead, their “guides” told the woman to call her relatives and instruct them to send $6,000 or they would be harmed. The relatives notified Mexican authorities, who located the mother and daughter, rescued them and arrested their three captors.