Mexican nationals in the Chicago area are being subjected to a wave of extortion and kidnapping linked to drug cartels in their home region, reports the New York Times. The threats, typically delivered by cell phone, are simple and direct: We are holding your loved one, and you must pay us or he will die. Nearly 1 million Mexicans live in Chicago, and many come from Michoacán, home state of the infamous La Familia cartel. Mexicans in Chicago maintain close contact with families in Mexico, which makes it easier for La Familia’s extended network to single out immigrants who own businesses, and to make extortion threats against their operations and relatives in Mexico.
Xóchitl Bada, a professor of Latin American studies at the University of Illinois-Chicago, said families in Chicago “know they are at the mercy of a very corrupt justice system” in Mexico. “And if you are thousands of miles away,” she said, “of course your fear gets magnified.”