14ymedio, Ángel Salinas, Mexico, 22 April 2022 — Whether or not you live there or have a tourist visa, in the International Airport of Mexicali “Cubans pay or are detained,” Deborah Rodríguez told 14ymedio. This woman, originally from Old Havana and now living in Mexico City, made three trips this year to the capital of Baja California, on the border with the U.S. “On two of them I had to give the agent 500 pesos [around $25] to let me continue.”
She worked as an assistant in an audiovisual production company, and they singled her out from the others in transit. “It was in February. They didn’t separate me from the group but put me against a wall like a criminal. The agents denigrate you without anyone doing anything.”
The terminal area has the capacity to perform 18 operations per hour and counts on charter routes for U.S. citizens from Los Angeles and San Francisco and Canadians from Vancouver. The airport is located 20 kilometers [13 miles] from Mexicali and has been converted into a route for Cubans on their transit to the U.S.
Norma Bustamamte Martínez, the Municipal President of Mexicali, confirms that “the arrival of 70 Cubans” was registered on April 12. The officer says that the denunciations of migrants about extortion are “rumors.” Alberto Gómez, from the National Institute of Migration (INM), denied these allegations.
But Rodríguez tells a different story. She reports that when you get off the plane, there are two checkpoints before you get to the exit. “The first is the INM where they review your documents. This is where you slip some money among your papers or you can’t leave. The second is the National Guard Army, where they review your papers and give you a pass to the commercial area and the exit to the station.
In spite of denials by the authorities, inside the airport are the immigration agents who control the extortions. The Cuban boxer, Michel Sarita, arrived in the terminal at the end of March with official documentation to remain in Mexico, according to Luis Felipe, who knows him. Before they took away his cellphone, the athlete said, “They put us on a bus, here in Immigration, and I don’t know where they’re taking us.”
A Venezuelan woman and her brother each paid 500 pesos to the agents. They told Luis Felipe that they had been arbitrarily detained and weren’t told where they were being taken. “Not everyone is able to pay.”
Javier is another native of the Island who was a victim of blackmail on the part of the Immigration authorities. You have to pay a fee, “everyone knows that.” Even though you have residence in Mexico or a tourist visa, it’s an “obligation” when you land in this airport to “put $100 in your passport when the agents approach you.”
This Cuban from the province of Granma was a permanent resident in Ecuador, and after one month he decided to emigrate to the U.S. to try his luck. He arrived in Mexico with a tourist visa which gave him the right to travel anywhere in the country. In Mexicali he had to pay $100 without any argument in order to avoid arrest.
Another two Cubans with permanent residence in Mexico also confirmed to 14ymedio that they suffered extortion. “We know why you come here”, the officials warned them. “Be honest.” They continued like this until the Cubans gave in and paid the money. In exchange the officials returned their papers and let them leave the terminal.
Another source confirmed to this newspaper that one person with a false visa paid 300 dollars to Immigration in this airport to avoid arrest.
The Department of Customs and Border Protection registered the arrival of 80,000 Cubans to the U.S. between October 1, 2021 and March of 2022. And in Mexico, Immigration reported the detention of 15,907 Cubans on April 16.
Translated by Regina Anavy
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