MEXICO CITY -- Mexican police have arrested 42 immigration agents and other government employees accused of running a network that smuggled illegal immigrants into the United States, officials said yesterday.
The suspects, arrested in raids last week in 12 of Mexico's 31 states, allegedly smuggled Cubans, Uruguayans, Brazilians, Asians, and Central Americans through the southern border and guaranteed them safe passage into the United States. It was unclear how the ring operated in the United States.
Attorney General Rafael Macedo de la Concha said his office was asking US law enforcement agencies for help to determine whether any Americans were involved in the ring.
Macedo de la Concha said it was the largest smuggling ring involving officials discovered to date. The suspects face organized crime and migrant trafficking charges, he added.
"Unfortunately, these criminal organizations operated with protection from public servants," Macedo del Concha said, noting the officials "offered information about [police] raids, illegally freed captured migrants, and allowed them to pass with falsified documents."
Those arrested included agents and former agents of Mexico's National Immigration Institute, the INI, the very agency Mexico relies on to detect illegal migrants and prevent the country from becoming a staging base for migrants from other countries. Even more disturbing was the fact that seven of the 26 INI agents arrested were assigned to Mexico's Grupo Beta, a force designed to protect
immigrants. The suspects also included six former INI agents, seven local police and three former officers.Deputy Attorney General Jose Luis Santiago Vasconcelos said the traffickers charged between $2,000 and $6,000 to get immigrants into the United States.