A Phoenix-based migrant activist arrested in Mexico last week was freed from jail early Wednesday after a judge dismissed the smuggling charges against him because of a lack of evidence.
Speaking to reporters after his release, Irineo Mujica lashed out against the Mexican government, accusing them of fabricating the charges.
“We are fearful about these types of dirty tactics that the government used,” he said. “However, if the narcos have not stopped us ... this won’t stop us either.”
Plainclothes officers arrested Mujica on June 6 near the Arizona-Mexico border after receiving complaints that Mujica had taken money to smuggle migrants to the country’s northern border with the U.S., according to Mexico’s Attorney General’s Office.
Mujica vowed that his arrest would not stop him from carrying on his work to assist migrants. He helps run a shelter for migrants in Sonoyta, across the border from Lukeville, Arizona, and is the leader of the migrant support group Pueblo Sin Fronteras.
Mujica and another activist, Cristobal Sanchez, were arrested the same day on opposite sides of the country. Officers arrested Mujica as he left a family business in Sonoyta, and Sanchez in Tapachula, on Mexico’s southern border with Guatemala.
Both men faced a judge in Tapachula on Tuesday. In both cases, the judge threw out the government’s charges against the two men.
“We cannot stop,” Mujica said. “Because if we stop, then this will definitely turn to an even greater hell, not just for migrants, but also for our country.”
Pueblo Sin Fronteras, the migrant support group that has assisted migrants as they journey through Mexico on the way to the United States, had criticized the arrests as a political ploy. Mujica in the past has helped organize large migrant caravans through Mexico.
The arrests happened as the U.S. and Mexican governments were negotiating an immigration enforcement deal to avoid threatened tariffs on Mexican imports into the United States.
“We remain concerned by the criminalization campaign against migrants and human-rights defenders as a result of the political pressure from the United States government,” Pueblo Sin Fronteras spokesman Alex Mensing said.
Mujica, a dual citizen of the U.S. and Mexico, previously had been arrested in Mexico City in October 2018 as a large caravan of mostly Central Americans made its way to the border city of Tijuana. He was released after three days.
Mujica was also named as an unindicted co-conspirator in the felony trial of humanitarian-aid volunteer Scott Warren for allegedly harboring two undocumented immigrants.
Warren’s trial ended Tuesday in a mistrial after the jury deadlocked 8-4 on all three charges against him.