REYNOSA, Mexico — When Gustavo and his family were sent back to Mexico after they crossed the U.S. border, his two sons said they were hungry. Gustavo, a Honduran man, sat them on the steps of the bridge and crossed the street to buy them something to eat. He remembers that a car approached him as he walked those steps. “They put me in the car. The children stayed there, waiting for me, but I didn’t come back.”
He had been kidnapped.
Days later, on the same bridge, Jorge Geovanni Díaz, also from Honduras, found himself holding hands with his son, who is 7, after the U.S. returned them to Mexico. Discouraged, he called their smuggler or coyote. They were picked up in front of the international bridge and taken to a bodega, where almost 200 people were hoping to cross the river again. All of a sudden, armed men came in and violently took them all away. For this man and his child, 44 harsh days in captivity began.
When migrants arrive in these Mexican cities near the border, they’re the targets of a vicious criminal business that kidnaps them and can torture them for weeks, extorting thousands of dollars of ransom from their relatives over the phone. Those who are kidnapped know that if they don’t pay, the outstanding balances can end in death.
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