Estefania Briceño is interviewed by Efe near the Paso del Norte international bridge in Ciudad Juarez, Mexico, on 23 July 2023. EFE/Luis Torres

Migrants facing growing hostility in Mexico’s northern border region

By Martin Coronado

Estefania Briceño and Jhondeiby Perez walk near the Paso del Norte international bridge in Ciudad Juarez, Mexico, on 23 July 2023. EFE/Luis Torres

Ciudad Juarez, Mexico, Jul 24 (EFE) – When Estefania, a Colombian migrant, and her Venezuelan husband, Jhondeiby, were kidnapped along with their newborn baby in this city across from El Paso, Texas, they faced a perilous situation that also caused them to miss their asylum interview in the United States.

Estefania Briceño and Jhondeiby Perez pose for a photo near the Paso del Norte international bridge in Ciudad Juarez, Mexico, on 23 July 2023. EFE/Luis Torres

But although their ordeal was doubly distressing, it was nothing out of the ordinary amid a rise in violence and hostility toward migrants in Mexico’s border region.

Frontier barriers, barbed wire and the constant vigilance of National Guard troops and Border Patrol agents are complicating the situation of those seeking to enter the United States.

And the Republican-led state of Texas, which accuses President Joe Biden’s administration of shirking its duty to combat illegal immigration, has further ramped up its own deterrence efforts with the installation of buoys on the Rio Grande.

Estefania Briseño, 20, and Jhondeiby Perez, 24, carry their three-month-old baby in front of a border rail bridge that links Ciudad Juarez with El Paso and wait desperately for a chance to cross to the other side.

Previously motivated by a desire for a better life, they now are driven by fear after being held captive for 20 days.

A primary concern is to protect their baby son from the heat in a city where temperatures for the past three weeks have exceeded 40 C (104 F).

Every day, they walk around five kilometers along the southern bank of the Rio Grande to the Paso del Norte international bridge and the bi-national rail crossing, looking for a gap in the line of defense against unauthorized migration.

Seeking safety in numbers, they stay close to dozens of migrants who are now sleeping in Ciudad Juarez’s El Chamizal Park.

Estefania told Efe she has relatives in Tennessee who have lived for more than 20 years in the US and can pay for them to travel there and start working.

But getting across the Rio Grande is a difficult proposition, with patrols set up at nearly ever kilometer along the border.


Despite the expiration of the Covid-era Title 42 policy that allowed for the rapid expulsion of migrants for public health reasons, asylum seekers still face harsh restrictions with the return of Title 8 pre-pandemic rules.

Migrants have been told not to arrive at the border to request asylum (but rather to use a government app) and have been warned that, unlike under Title 42, they could face prosecution for attempts at illegal entry.

US media also have reported on new anti-immigrant measures in Texas, where in addition to the buoys (which federal authorities are suing to have removed) local agents have been ordered to push migrants into the Rio Grande and not provide water to asylum seekers.

Estefania told Efe she knows that an unauthorized border crossing means the possibility of her family being separated, with asylum being granted to her and her baby but her husband being deported back to Mexico.

“With Title 8, I’m afraid I could cross with the baby but he couldn’t, I can’t leave him alone. Yes, I’m determined to cross, but I want to cross as a family,” she said.


The family was in Mexico City when they secured their first asylum interview, which was to have taken place on July 7.

But on their way to the US-Mexico border, people who identified themselves as police officers pulled them off the bus.

“We came with the idea of entering with our appointment, to cross legally, but on the way we had the misfortune of being kidnapped,” she said, adding that Jhondeiby’s mother was forced to sell her house in Venezuela to raise the money for their release.

“It really wasn’t our fault that we missed the appointment. But on the other side (the United States), they don’t understand and it’s a bit frustrating for us. We don’t know what to do, we really owe a lot of money,” a tearful Estefania said while holding her baby in her arms.

“They told us they were going to kill my son, so many things, and I was left traumatized. I’m afraid a car will stop, I’m afraid of everything, that’s why I want to cross now,” she added.

Jhondeiby, who used to earn a living as a delivery worker, said it has been three months since he and his family crossed the Darien Gap, a treacherous no-man’s land of thick jungle that serves as a natural border between Colombia and Panama.

“We’ve suffered a lot because we have no money, we have no way to eat … we’re living outside in a park with the baby in a tent and it’s been difficult,” he says.

Jhondeiby said he and his wife will continue trying to enter the US legally.

But if they are unable to do so, he said they will return to Mexico City and look for work there because Ciudad Juarez is an unsafe city for migrants.

“We don’t know how (to get across the border), there’s lots of barbed wire and we can’t get through with the baby,” he lamented.