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Mexico Closes 5 Immigrant Detention Centers 'For Lacking Minimum Working Conditions'

Mexico’s federal immigration agency shuttered five of its detention centers late last month, as the agency’s new chief says he wants to improve the treatment of undocumented migrants.

The closings included the detention center in Reynosa, across the border from McAllen, Texas, just days after the director of that office was fired. A report from TV network Telemundo had found officials at that office had extorted migrants being held there, and officials have said they’re investigating the complaints.

The remaining closures were in Nogales, across the border from Nogales, Arizona, on the coasts in Acapulco, Guerrero, and Tuxpan, Veracruz; and toward southern Mexico in Morelia, Michoacan.

"The National Migration Institute has closed [the facilities] for lacking minimum working conditions for shelter and services," a statement from the agency said.

Top immigration officials, appointed by the newly elected President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, appear to be making an effort to reform the agency, said Gretchen Kuhner, director of the Institute for Women in Migration, a Mexico City-based nonprofit.

"There’s more of an effort by the new commissioner to begin to close detention centers that he knows are poorly run, don't have sufficient resources," Kuhner said.

Mexico has 48 detention centers where undocumented migrants — a majority from Honduras, El Salvador and Guatemala — are held. Mexico has deported more than half a million migrants from Central America in the last five years, many of whom were trying to reach the U.S.

Jorge Valencia was a senior field correspondent at KJZZ from 2016 to 2019.