Hundreds of Venezuelans feel a bittersweet feeling when they arrive Saturday in Eagle Pass, a US town on the border with Mexico, after weeks of traveling dangerous roads and crossing a thick forest of barbed wire.

“Are we safe,” asks Karlen Ramirez, in tears after crossing the Rio Grande river which separates the United States from Mexico, fleeing, like hundreds of compatriots, Nicolas Maduro’s Venezuela.

In Eagle Pass in Texas, a town of 30,000 inhabitants that has become one of the main crossing points to the United States, the American authorities have created a wall of barbed wire which winds near a golf course. It represents the final obstacle in the painful journey undertaken by thousands of migrants who have fled their country for economic, social or political reasons, in search of the “American dream”.

“I was scared when I saw that,” says Luis Duran, who oscillates between smiles and tears, since he managed to cross the barbed wire thanks to a breach through which more than 500 migrants entered on Saturday, in Venezuelan majority.

“We were robbed in other countries, mistreated,” explains the 37-year-old man, who limps and injured his ankle after having had to jump from the roof of a train on which he crossed part of Mexico with his family.

“Over there”. He points to the river. “Armed men tried to kidnap my niece,” he says in tears, hugging a 7-year-old girl who walks with her eyes fixed on the horizon.

“But Venezuela is worse. We are afraid to stay there.”

“Now we are more relaxed, now that we are here, everything will be better,” adds her sister Lexibel Duran, 28, mother of three girls, before being approached by the border guards.

The US Border Patrol officially recorded 1.8 million migrant crossings at its southern border between October 2022 and August 2023, not including legal entry points.

The Biden administration, under pressure from the Republican opposition who accuse it of having transformed the southern border into a sieve, is trying to reduce illegal immigration while opening more legal channels.

The United States announced that it would set up a refugee aid program. US Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas was scheduled to meet Honduran President Xiomara Castro in the Texas border town of McAllen on Saturday.

In the meantime, on the ground, the authorities are continuing their dissuasive strategy.

A US military convoy is bringing more armed guards and barbed wire on Saturday to plug the gaps.

Shreds of clothing hang on the fence, a sign of the ferocity of the barbed wire.

But nothing dampens the determination of the migrants, many of whom have traveled thousands of kilometers on foot and faced the terrible jungle of Darien, on the border between Colombia and Panama.

They dig holes in the sand or move the barbed wire with their hands to make a passage under the gaze of the soldiers of the American national guard, who only intervene when the migrants have crossed this iron labyrinth to take them to the posts- nearest borders.

“That’s nothing,” says Dileidys Urdaneta, a 17-year-old Venezuelan, pointing to the barbed wire. “Because what we experienced, what we suffered, is much worse. And what we leave behind us is beyond comparison.”

The teenager, who arrived in Eagle Pass with only her identification papers, a dead phone and the clothes on her back, says she is confident that “everything will be fine from now on.”

23/09/2023 22:29:48 –         Eagle Pass (United States) (AFP) –         © 2023 AFP