Del Rio: Officials said the US plans to intensify its efforts to evacuate Haitian migrants on flights to their Caribbean homeland, officials said as agents poured into the Texas border town where thousands of Haitians suddenly crossed into the US from Mexico. gathered after.
The Department of Homeland Security said in a statement that it moved nearly 2,000 migrants who had gathered under and near a bridge in the border city of Del Rio on Friday, to other locations for processing and possible expulsion from the United States. .
It also said that by Monday morning there would be 400 agents and officers in the area and were ready to send more if required.
The announcement marks a swift response to the sudden arrival of Haitians in Del Río, a city of about 35,000 people, which is about 233 kilometers west of San Antonio and sits on a relatively remote stretch of the border in which to catch such large numbers. and lacks processing capacity. People.
A US official told the Associated Press on Friday that operational capacity and Haiti’s willingness to accept flights will determine how many flights there will be. The official said that progress is being made on talks with the Haitian authorities.
The official said the US is likely to fly five to eight planes a day starting on Sunday, while another official expected no more than two a day and said all migrants were exposed to COVID-19. will be tested for.
The two officials were not authorized to discuss the matter publicly and spoke on condition of anonymity.
US Customs and Border Protection closed the only border crossing between Del Río and Ciudad Acua, Mexico, on Friday to vehicular and pedestrian traffic in both directions “to respond to urgent safety and security needs”.
Passengers were being guided indefinitely at a crossing at Eagle Pass, 91 km away.
Crowd estimates varied, but Val Verde County Sheriff Frank Joe Martinez said Friday that there were about 13,700 new arrivals in Del Rio. 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.
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.
“Our borders are not open, and people should not make dangerous travel,” DHS said.
Individuals and families are subject to border restrictions, including expulsion, “the agency wrote. Irregular migration poses a significant threat to the health and well-being of border communities and the lives of migrants themselves, and should not be attempted.”
Stephen Miller, the chief architect of former President Donald Trump’s harsh policies and a frequent critic of the Biden administration, expressed doubts that Haiti’s government would agree to the number of flights for a large-scale operation. He had daily calls last year with US State Department officials about Haiti’s resistance to flights, which Haiti was relying on only under the threat of sanctions.
About 500 Haitians were ordered to be disembarked by Mexican immigration officials in Tamaulipas state, about 200 kilometers south of the Texas border, the state government said in a news release on 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 earthquake in 2010. 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 Darren 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 to decide whether to attempt to enter the United States.
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.
An epidemiological order to immediately expel 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.
Nicole Phillips, legal director of advocacy group Haitian Bridge Alliance, said on Saturday that the US government should process migrants and allow them to apply for asylum, not rush them to evacuate. The group’s executive director was traveling to the area, but had not yet arrived.
“This is really a humanitarian crisis,” Phillips said. “There’s a lot of help out there now.” Mexico has agreed to only take families expelled from Mexico, Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador, creating an opening for Haitians and other nationalities.
Mexico’s immigration agency said in a statement on Saturday that Mexico has started “permanent dialogue” with representatives of the Haitian government to address the situation of irregular migrant flows during their entry and transit through Mexico, with At the same time, their help can also be returned.