Three asylum seekers were kidnapped in April while in a U.S. migration program that had placed them in the care of Mexican officials in the city of Nuevo Laredo, across the border from Texas, one of the victims and the U.N. migration agency said.
The kidnapping reported two months ago, happened in spite of measures the Biden administration says improved the safety of the program, known as the Migrant Protection Protocols (MPP), which requires asylum seekers to wait in Mexico for their U.S. immigration court hearings.
The case is the first known kidnapping under the revamped MPP, said Dana Graber Ladek, Chief of Mission in Mexico for the International Organization for Migration (IOM), a United Nations agency that helps transport people under the program.
Reuters learned further details of the case through an interview with one of the kidnapped migrants, a 29-year-old Peruvian chef named Raul. A spokesperson for the U.S. Department of Homeland Security also confirmed the kidnapping.
“We are aware of the incident and are extremely concerned,” said Graber Ladek, adding that she was in contact with local and national Mexican authorities “to prevent these things from happening again.”
The migrants were in the custody of Nuevo Laredo city officials, not IOM, when they were abducted.
U.S. President Joe Biden, a Democrat, ended MPP soon after taking office last year as part of a push to reverse the hardline immigration policies of his Republican predecessor Donald Trump but was forced to reinstate it in December under court order.
In re-implementing the program, the Biden administration promised new measures would enhance protection for migrants.
“You think you’re in good hands,” Raul said of the U.S. government, asking that his last name be withheld out of fear of retaliation from the kidnappers. “But that’s not the case.”