Father Francisco Gallardo López, who heads migrant ministry for the Diocese of Matamoros located in the Mexican state of Tamaulipas, decried the fact that migrants are being kidnapped in the country’s north “on a constant basis.”

Mexican authorities reported Jan. 3 the rescue of 31 migrants who had been kidnapped the night of Dec. 30 as they were traveling aboard a truck on the highway that connects the cities of Monterrey and Matamoros on their way to the United States.

Matamoros is located in the northeastern corner of the country across the border from Brownsville, Texas.

In an interview with ACI Prensa, CNA’s Spanish-language news partner, Gallardo lamented that the practice of kidnapping migrants, far from being “an isolated event, has become a constant occurrence that seriously affects those seeking a better future.”

According to the priest, for criminals “the person doesn’t matter, it doesn’t matter if it’s a woman, if it’s a child, if it’s a man,” because they see each migrant as “a juicy commodity” to be turned into money.

In addition, the priest charged that the kidnappers “subject migrants to physical and emotional abuse to take their money or that of their families or friends.”

The Diocese of Matamoros has witnessed dramatic cases of violence against migrants in recent years, including the tragic case of 72 people who were murdered at a remote ranch in the San Fernando area in 2010. On that occasion, the drug trafficking cartel known as “the Zetas” murdered 58 men and 14 women, mainly from Central and South America, who were crossing Mexico on their journey to the United States.

The president of Mexico, Andrés Manuel López Obrador, said in a Jan. 3 press conference that his government managed to “considerably reduce the crime of kidnapping in the country” but acknowledged that there are still cases happening in the states of San Luis Potosi, Nuevo León, Coahuila, “and especially in Tamaulipas.” The latter three are on the border with Texas.

“In some cases migrants are being kidnapped to extort them,” Gallardo said.

For the Mexican priest, Catholics need to be more “attentive” to the plight of migrants. Furthermore, he encouraged the faithful “to pray to God for all the situations that are plaguing society in the country, especially for migrants.”

“We can still do more, if all Christians, all Catholics, join together” to be able to help people “in vulnerable situations,” he stressed.