(SAN LUIS POTOSI, Mexico) — Nine migrants were found Tuesday by Mexican authorities after a group was kidnapped on its way to the U.S.-Mexico border.
A bus holding 50 migrants left Tapachula, Chiapas, on Sunday and disappeared the following day near Matehuala, San Luis Potosí.
The migrants had permission to transit through Mexico and decided to take a bus to head to the border.
The owner of the company received a call asking for a thousand dollars for each of the passengers on the bus, the vice president of National Confederation of Mexican Carriers in San Luis Potosí said.
The bus was located Tuesday afternoon in Galeana, Nuevo León, but without the passengers.
Later in the night, nine of the 50 migrants were rescued in Nuevo Leon state after allegedly escaping their captors.
Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador said he would send National Guard members to help with the search during his morning press conference Wednesday.
“The kidnapping of migrants in Matehuala is being taken care of. Some of them have already been found,” he said. “The site has already been identified. In short, we are already working on that. There is a deployment of the National Guard and we hope to rescue them.”
“Originally, we are talking of 50 [kidnapped migrants]. We are on it and we cannot say more for obvious reasons but work is being done,” he added.
Some migrants arriving in Mexico can freely move in the country without seeking the help of smugglers if they are provided with a transit permit issued by the Mexican National Institute of Migration.
Smugglers are now trying to make up for lost business by asking a fee from bus companies that move the migrants.
“Unfortunately there are gangs that kidnap. That is also why we make this appeal to the migrant brothers not to be deceived, manipulated by the traffickers, by the coyotes, by the polleros, who tell them that if they get five, six, eight thousand dollars, they’re going to take them to the U.S.,” Lopez Obrador said.
Pandemic-era border restrictions, known as Title 42, expired last week, leaving migrants from many Central and South American countries in limbo as they tried to cross the U.S.-Mexico border.
After Title 42 expired, President Joe Biden implemented new asylum restrictions for immigrants, requiring them to apply first for legal protection in another country before doing so in the U.S.
Asylum seekers now have to meet a “higher threshold of proof” and have a “credible fear” of returning to their home country before qualifying, Department of Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas said.
The Biden administration also said it was establishing processing centers for immigrants in Guatemala and Colombia. The Guatemalan government, however, has not yet agreed to a processing center with the U.S. even though the two countries have had some preliminary conversations about the matter, a spokesperson for the Guatemalan president told ABC News.
Despite the risks, thousands of migrants still make the perilous journey to the U.S. each day.
ABC News’ Ellie Kaufman and Haroldo Martinez contributed to this report.
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