2 U.S.-bound Iraqis held in Mexico

Sean Mattson
Express-News Mexico Correspondent

MONTERREY, Mexico — Two Iraqis traveling to the United States were arrested Monday at the Monterrey International Airport with fake Swiss passports, authorities said.
The two men, who said they were Chaldean Christians ages 25 and 30, were fleeing discrimination in war-torn Iraq, said Luis Robles, a Mexican immigration official.

“They behaved a little strangely, so they were sent for a secondary interrogation,” Robles said.

The men were headed to California, where one man said he had a sister, Robles said.

There are sizable communities of Iraqi Christians in the state.

The arrests marked the second time this year that Iraqi Christians trying to reach the United States through Mexico were detained in Monterrey.

In January, 11 Iraqis, including a woman and a 2-year-old girl, were arrested with fake passports.

In both cases, they flew to Monterrey from Madrid, Spain, on a flight that immigration authorities said is an illegal immigration conduit.

“We put a lot of emphasis on that flight,” Robles said.

The men, whose names authorities did not immediately release, will be sent to Mexico City for further investigation.

Under Mexican law, they could face charges or deportation. But if they clear terrorist watch lists, they may be released.

The Iraqis arrested in January were freed in Mexico without charges.

They did not seek refugee status in Mexico and eventually left the country, said Cecilia Romero, Mexico’s top immigration official.

“The situation in Iraq, as we all know, is a conflictive situation,” Romero said in January. “They are fleeing a war in their country and we can’t simply tell them ‘Go.'”