In the past six months, kidnapping has become a common occurrence for migrants crossing through Mexico on their way to the United States. This is probably connected to the Mexican government’s crackdown on migrants traveling through the country without permission, an action encouraged by the Biden administration. Because migrants must spend extra effort avoiding Mexican immigration officials, some rush into the waiting hands of organized crime groups poised to make money from any restriction to migration flow. 

The kidnappings follow a predictable pattern. Organized crime groups, or occasionally Mexican immigration officials themselves, will hold a group of migrants while requesting compensation from their families, typically a wire transfer of several thousand dollars, over the phone. Some migrants are quickly released while others are held for weeks or are never seen again. 

For most migrants, avoiding kidnapping is playing a game of chance.

Much of this kidnapping occurs when migrants enter border states such as Chihuahua, Coahuila, or Tamaulipas on buses and trains. Horror stories of days spent packed in the sweltering heat in safe houses with little food and water trickle through the migrant population, warning new groups who enter Mexico. But there are few ways to evade the threat that organized crime groups will control taxi transport from bus stops and airports, and who may work with police to extort migrant groups that pass through on their way to the border. For most migrants, avoiding kidnapping is playing a game of chance. 

The high frequency of kidnappings means a greater percentage of asylum-seekers will pass the U.S. “credible fear” threshold that allows them to enter the asylum system. But with President Joe Biden’s new executive order restricting asylum access to those using the CBP One app, migrants will need to wait months longer in Mexico — making them more vulnerable to kidnapping.

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