U.S. Authorities have moved 3,300 migrants in the past two days from a Texas border city where thousands of people, mostly Haitians, had gathered under a bridge after crossing the Rio Grande from Mexico, authorities said Sunday.
Some of the migrants were seen later arriving in Haiti.
“Over the next 6 to 7 days, our goal is to process the 12,662 migrants that we have under that bridge as quickly as possible,” said US Border Patrol Chief Raúl Ortiz during a news conference in Del Rio, Texas.
He said that the United States was working with the countries of origin or countries through which the migrants had traveled to accept those who had been waiting for the immigration process under the bridge that connects Del Río with Ciudad Acuña in Mexico.
The migrants continued to cross the river despite the threat of being returned and increased security on the US side that on Sunday included law enforcement officers on horseback, one of whom was seen swinging a rope against a person wading through the river. Rio Grande.
Officials on both sides of the border have said that most of the migrants were from Haiti. Many of the Haitians Reuters has spoken to said they had been to South America before heading north more recently because they were unable to obtain legal status or were fighting racism and obtaining decent jobs.
Earlier on Sunday, Reuters reporters saw a white bus escorted by U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) agents enter Del Rio airport and then a group boarding a Guard plane Coastal. A law enforcement source said the people were migrants and a source familiar with airport operations said the aircraft was headed for El Paso, Texas.
Meanwhile, Tom Cartwright of the advocacy group Witness at the Border, which tracks U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) flights, told Reuters that three flights departed from Texas, one from Laredo and two from San Antonio, on Sunday taking Haitians to Haiti.
Alejandro Mayorkas, secretary of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), said during another press conference that the expulsion flights to Haiti that began on Sunday will continue every day. He said he could not detail the number of flights or the number of Haitians for security reasons.
DHS had announced Saturday that it was accelerating expulsions to Haiti, dispatching more CBP agents to the area and taking other steps to address the situation in Del Rio, where conditions under the bridge have become increasingly miserable.
After US law enforcement officials told Haitians they could no longer come and go to Mexico in search of supplies at the shallow crossing point they had used in previous days, migrants flocked to a stretch different from the river.
For hours, hundreds of migrants crossed from the United States into Mexico, some telling Reuters they needed food and water for their families because there were few supplies in the camp under the bridge.
Around noon, mounted officers, some wearing vests stamped with the words “United States Border Patrol Police,” galloped to block the path of migrants climbing the US bank carrying plastic bags and cardboard boxes of food. An officer swung a rope like a lasso near the face of a migrant in the water, Reuters images showed. The US officers then placed yellow tape on that section of the bench. The migrants proceeded to cross at a deeper point.
Cartwright of Witness at the Border expressed concern about the return of migrants to Haiti. In July, the president of the impoverished nation was assassinated, and in August a great earthquake and a powerful storm hit the country. COVID-19 is also cause for concern, Cartwright said.
“Haiti before the earthquake did not have a strong health system,” he said. “And the fact that we send people back, especially if they have not been tested and have not tested negative, would be a huge concern.”
Mayorkas told reporters that the Haitian government “has communicated to us quite clearly its ability to receive the flights” and said that the US government is providing funds to Haiti to help. He did not specify the amount.
A public health order from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention known as Title 42, issued under the Trump administration at the start of the coronavirus pandemic, allows most migrants to be expelled. quickly without the possibility of applying for asylum. President Joe Biden has kept that rule in place, though he exempted unaccompanied minors and his administration has not been expelling most families. Biden had promised a more humane approach to immigration than his predecessor Donald Trump.
A judge ruled Thursday that the policy could not apply to families, but the ruling does not go into effect for two weeks and the Biden administration has appealed.
Migrants are usually able to surrender at the border and request asylum, which triggers a lengthy judicial process. The Trump administration lowered protections, arguing that many asylum claims were false.