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Photos: Repairmen’s network takes advantage of migrants who cross into Mexico

When migrants cross into Mexico through Tapachula, the main southern border city, a hot place with no job opportunities, they soon learn that the only way to cut red tape and speed up what can be a months-long immigration process is to pay someone

With an increasing number of foreigners entering Mexico, a sprawling network of lawyers, mediators, and intermediaries has exploded in the country. At every turn, opportunists are ready to provide documents or advice to immigrants who can afford it and who don’t want to risk their lives in a truck for a dangerous border crossing.

Repairmen have always found business with those who pass through the country. But the growing number of migrants over the past year has made the job more prominent and profitable, as have Mexico’s renewed efforts to control migration by speeding up document processing.

The result is a booming business that often takes advantage of an immigrant population that is mostly poor, desperate and unable to look elsewhere.

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Even when immigrants purchase travel documents or visas, they are not guaranteed safe transit. The papers can be discarded or destroyed by the same agency that issued them.

Migrants rarely report questionable practices. Most assume that their payments and time are part of the price of traveling to the northern US. Even when corruption is reported, authorities rarely take action, citing lack of evidence.

Mexico’s National Migration Institute did not respond to multiple requests for comment about its efforts to combat corruption, and officials declined to be interviewed. This month, the agency said it had followed up on all recommendations issued by the internal control office as part of its commitment to fighting corruption. In earlier remarks, he said that officials try to prevent bribery and corruption by installing surveillance cameras in offices and encouraging people to report problems.

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The lack of accountability has made it easier for repairmen to operate and exchange payments and information with officials.

“This is never going to end because there are many high-ranking officials involved who are receiving a lot of money,” said Mónica Vázquez, a public defender from Puebla, in central Mexico.

She and her colleagues believe that the situation is only getting worse.

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