81 Chinese Migrants Detained In Mexico

81 Chinese Immigrants Detained in Mexico

The Associated Press
Saturday, March 10, 2007; 1:20 AM

CANCUN, Mexico — Federal police detained 81 Chinese immigrants and 22 immigration agents on Friday after the Chinese were discovered hiding in the Cancun airport terminal, possibly with the protection of Mexican immigration officers.

The 53 Chinese men and 28 women arrived on a flight from Europe late Thursday. Because of a lack of interpreters, police were unable to glean more details.

The U.S.-Mexico border is at the forefront of a growing debate over U.S. immigration and border security reform.

“We don't have all the information, what we can confirm is that 81 Chinese citizens were detained this morning at the airport,” said Guadalupe Cerino, a spokeswoman for the Attorney General's Office. “We still do not have details on how they entered Mexico.”

Federal police doing routine patrols found the Chinese in the airport, apparently accompanied by agents of the National Immigration Institute, police said.

When police asked the immigration officers what they were doing with the immigrants, they gave contradictory explanations, leading police to detain both them and the Chinese, police said.

In the past, some immigration officers have been known to allow or help undocumented immigrants on their way to Mexico's northern border _ where they usually try to enter the United States _ in exchange for bribes.

The immigrants were taken to the local offices of the federal attorney general.

The immigration officers were being held for questioning at separate offices, police said. Police were waiting for interpreters to interview the Chinese immigrants and determine whether the immigration agents were involved in a scheme to smuggle them to the United States.