Monday, July 26, 2010

Arrests shed light on border kidnappings

The bedraggled immigrants were picking their way through the boulders and scrub when a group of heavily armed men descended on them just short of the California- Mexico border. They corralled them in a cave and pointed their guns on the 10 men and one woman. These lawless badlands in the hills east of Tijuana have long teemed with bandits and rapists, but these criminals demanded only phone numbers. They started calling the immigrants' loved ones in Pomona, San Diego and Bakersfield: Send us money or we'll shoot, they said. The days-long kidnapping ordeal in May illustrates a growing trend as roaming gangs of well-organized, heavily armed gunmen turn their sights on illegal immigrants, making a treacherous journey ever more dangerous for people trekking north. In the spree of kidnappings, which began about two years ago, gunmen hold people captive until family members in the U.S. send wire transfers of up to $5,000 to accounts in Mexico. Some immigrants are beaten; several have been killed, including a pair of brothers from Mexico City. Many straggle across the border and turn themselves in to U.S. Border Patrol agents. Others end up in migrant shelters in Tijuana, too frightened to report the cases to Mexican police...more

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