DELE RIO, Texas (AP) — US officials said Saturday that within the next three days, they plan to increase evacuation flights for some of the thousands of Haitian migrants who gathered in a Texas city across the border from Mexico.
The Department of Homeland Security said in a statement that it moved about 2,000 migrants from Del Rio to other locations on Friday for processing and possible expulsion from the United States.
The announcement marks a swift response to the sudden arrival of thousands of Haitians in a relatively remote area of the border that lacks the capacity to capture and process such large numbers of people.
DHS said that as of Monday morning, US Customs and Border Protection plans to have at least 400 agents and officers in the Del Rio area and is ready to send more.
A US official told the Associated Press on Friday that operational capacity and the willingness of Haiti will determine the number of flights. The official said that progress is being made in talks with the Haitian authorities. The official had direct knowledge of the plans but was not authorized to discuss them publicly and spoke to the Associated Press on condition of anonymity.
This is a breaking news update. Below is an earlier story from AP.
The Biden administration on Saturday worked out a plan to send many of the thousands of Haitian migrants who have gathered in the border town of Texas back to their Caribbean homeland, a swift response to the massive influx of people that suddenly hit Mexico. crossed the border from and gathered under it. And around a bridge.
Details were yet to be finalized, but would likely include five to eight flights per day, starting on Sunday, according to an official who was not authorized to discuss the matter publicly with direct knowledge of the plans. And spoke to The Associated Press on this condition. Oblivion. San Antonio, the nearest major city to Del Rio, where migrants congregate, may be one of the departure cities.
The official said on Friday that operational capacity and the willingness of Haiti would determine the number of flights, but that “good progress” was being made.
Another administration official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, expected two flights per day, and said all migrants would be tested for COVID-19.
US officials closed the only border crossing in Del Rio to vehicular and pedestrian traffic in both directions on Friday, as the chaotic influx of migrants presented a new and immediate challenge to the administration as it tackled large numbers of asylum seekers. trying to manage. American soil.
US Customs and Border Protection said it was closing the border crossing with Ciudad Acua, Mexico, “to respond to urgent security and security needs”. Passengers were being directed to a crossing at Eagle Pass, 57 miles (91 km) away.
Haitians crossed the Rio Grande freely and in a steady stream on Friday, going back and forth between the US and Mexico through knee-deep waters, some parents carrying young children on their shoulders . Unable to buy supplies in the Americas, they returned to Mexico for some time for food and cardboard, temporarily, at least, under or near the bridge, in Del Rio, a city of 35,000 that had recently has been severely affected by migratory flows over the months.
Migrants pitched tents and built temporary shelters out of giant reeds known as carrizo canes. Many people took a bath in the river and washed their clothes.
Val Verde County Judge Lewis Owens said Friday the vast majority of migrants on the bridge were Haitians, the county’s top elected official and whose jurisdiction includes Del Rio. Some families had lived under the bridge for six days.
Owens said the litter box was 10 feet (3.1 m) wide, and that at least two women had given birth, one of whom tested positive for COVID-19 after being taken to the hospital.
The county’s sheriff, Frank Joe Martinez, estimated the crowd to be 13,700 and said more Haitians were traveling from Mexico by bus.
The flight plan, while potentially massive, hinges on how the Haitians respond. They may have to decide whether to live in a poor country ravaged by poverty and political instability at risk of being deported or returning to Mexico. Unaccompanied children are exempt from fast-track eviction.
About 500 Haitians had been ordered off buses by Mexican immigration officials in Tamaulipas state, about 120 miles (200 kilometers) south of the Texas border, the state government said in a news release Friday. They proceeded towards the border on foot.
Haitians have been migrating to the US in large numbers from South America for many years, with many leaving their Caribbean nation after the devastating 2010 earthquake. After jobs dried up from the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, many made the dangerous trek by foot, bus and car to the US border, including the infamous Darien Gap, a Panamanian wilderness.
It is unclear how such large numbers accumulated so quickly, although many Haitians have gathered in camps on the Mexican side of the border, including from San Diego to Tijuana, to decide whether to enter the United States. to try or not.
The US Department of Homeland Security did not respond to a request for comment. “We will address it accordingly,” Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Meyercas said Friday on MSNBC.
An official in President Joe Biden’s administration, who was not authorized to address the matter publicly and spoke on condition of anonymity, said the action is not specifically targeting Haitians and is not a policy change. It is not a representation of a practice, only a continuation of common practices.
The Federal Aviation Administration, acting on a Border Patrol request, prohibits drone flights around the bridge until September 30, generally at or below 1,000 feet (305 m) for security or law enforcement purposes. Is.
Texas Governor Greg Abbott, a Republican and a frequent critic of President Joe Biden, said federal officials told him that migrants under the bridge would be taken by the Defense Department to Arizona, California and elsewhere on the Texas border.
Some Haitians in the camp have lived for some time in Mexican cities along the US border, often moving between them, while others recently arrived after being trapped near Mexico’s southern border with Guatemala, according to the advocacy group Haitian Bridge Alliance. Legal Director Nicole Phillips said. . A sense of desperation spread after the Biden administration ended its practice of daily accepting asylum-seeking migrants who were deemed particularly vulnerable.
“People are panicking about how they take refuge,” Phillips said.
Edgar Rodriguez, an attorney at the Casa del Migrant migrant shelter in Piedras Negras, north of Del Rio, observed an increase of Haitians in the area two or three weeks ago and believes misinformation may have played a role. Migrants often decide on false rumors that policies are about to change and enforcement policies vary by city.
US officials are under severe scrutiny after Biden quickly ended policies of the Trump administration that Biden deemed cruel or inhumane, especially to asylum seekers while awaiting US immigration court hearings. Requires residency in Mexico. Such migrants have faced extreme violence in Mexico and exceptional difficulty finding lawyers.
The US Supreme Court last month upheld a judge’s order to reinstate the policy, although Mexico must agree to its terms. The Justice Department said in a court filing this week that discussions with the Mexican government were ongoing.
An epidemiological order to immediately evacuate migrants without the opportunity to seek asylum, introduced in March 2020, is in effect, but exempts unaccompanied children and many families. During his first month in office, Biden opted to exempt children traveling alone on humanitarian grounds.
The US government has been unable to expel many Central American families because Mexican officials have largely refused to accept them into Tamaulipas, which is across Texas’s Rio Grande Valley, the busiest corridor for illegal crossings. Is. On Friday, the administration said it would appeal a judge’s Thursday decision that barred it from invoking Title 42, the same as any family known authority over the pandemic.
Mexico has agreed to only take families expelled from Mexico, Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador, creating an opportunity for Haitians and other nationalities as the US has more access to detain them and take them on flights to their homes. But there is a lack of resources to remove them quickly.
In August, US officials stopped migrants nearly 209,000 times at the border, close to a 20-year high, although many of the stops repeatedly involved crossers because of no legal consequences for being expelled under Title 42 authorization. are not.
In August, family commuters were stopped 86,487 times, but less than one in five of them resulted in evictions under Title 42. The rest were processed under immigration laws, which usually means they were released with a court date or notice to report to immigration officials.
US officials stopped Haitians 7,580 times in August, a figure that has increased every month since August 2020, when they only made 55 stops. there too…