Mexico’s National Migration Institute (INM) cannot locate a single document or electronic record relating to a 2008 meeting between INM commissioner, Cecilia Romero, and the U.S. State Department official in charge of monitoring and combating human trafficking.
INM continues to declare the “non-existence” of such records despite an exhaustive, 44-page ruling from the country’s information commissioners ordering the agency to find responsive information. The case stems from a 2013 access to information request submitted to INM by the National Security Archive for briefing papers and other documentation pertaining to the 2008 visit to Mexico of U.S. Ambassador Mark P. Lagon, then the top U.S. official in charge of monitoring and combating human trafficking.
In overturning INM’s response in January, the commissioners of the Federal Institute for Access to Information and Data Protection (IFAI) said they “had no certainty that [INM] had exhausted all possible methods to locate the requested information and, as a consequence, INM was not in compliance” with Mexico’s federal access to information law. As evidence, IFAI cited a declassified U.S. State Department document that describes Lagon’s visit and his meeting with INM Commissioner Romero. The Archive included the January 2008 U.S. Embassy Mexico cable (excerpted below) in its appeal of INM’s original determination that such records do not exist:
Commissioner Optimistic But Recognizes Challenges Ahead
INM’s Commissioner, Cecilia Romero, used her meeting with Lagon to highlight efforts to address TIP [Trafficking in Persons] over the last six months and possible future challenges in the wake of Mexico’s newly adopted anti-TIP law. Although Romero seemed optimistic about the law and the number of migration officials trained, she was honest about the amount of work Mexico needs to do in order to ensure that the law effectively addresses TIP. Romero identified the following challenges Mexico faces in making progress in combating TIP: lack of funds to support the new law, insufficient public awareness about the issue, and under-trained law enforcement officials to address the psychological needs of a TIP victim. Lagon applauded the GOM’s [Government of Mexico’s] adoption of the new law and stressed that the U.S. was here ‘to help’ Mexico. Romero ended the meeting by saying that she hopes to obtain more help in training agents on identifying and providing services to victims of trafficking.
In light of the fact that INM cannot even manage to keep track of its own archival documents, it’s not surprising that the agency has failed by almost every measure to protect the rights of migrants and the victims of human trafficking. Romero was ultimately forced to resign from her post as INM commissioner following the August 2010 massacre of 72 migrants by alleged members of the Zetas criminal organization and amid reports that some 18,000 migrants had been kidnapped in Mexico during the previous year.
INM’s intransigent position in the face of access to information requests and stern rulings from IFAI is part of an unfortunate pattern exhibited by it and many other Mexican federal agencies. One migrant rights advocate and frequent user of the Mexican access law told Migration Declassified that they had “hit a wall this year with our access to information strategy, and a lot of it is due to the fact that the INM is declaring that it does not have the information we are seeking.”
The message is clear: in order to get the information they are seeking, petitioners under the Mexican access law have to be prepared to take their cases court.