Haitians on the Texas border not deterred by the US plan to expel them
Del Rio, Texas Haitian immigrants seeking to escape poverty, hunger and despair in their home country said they would not be deterred by US plans to bring them back quickly, as thousands of people remained camped on the Texas border on Saturday after crossing from Mexico.
Dozens of people raced back and forth across the Rio Grande on Saturday afternoon, returning to Mexico to buy water, food and diapers in Ciudad Acuña before returning to a Texas camp under a bridge in and near the border town of Del Rio.
Junior Jane, a 32-year-old man from Haiti, watched people cautiously carry bags of water or bags of food across the knee-high river waters. Jan said he’s lived on the streets in Chile for the past four years, succumbing to scavenging for food in trash cans.
“We are all looking for a better life,” he said.
The Department of Homeland Security said Saturday that it moved about 2,000 immigrants from the camp to other locations on Friday for processing and possible deportation from the United States. Its statement also said it will have 400 agents and officers in the area by Monday morning and will dispatch them. More if needed.
The announcement is a quick response to the sudden arrival of Haitians in del Rio, a Texas city of about 35,000 people 145 miles (230 kilometers) west of San Antonio. It is located on a relatively remote border stretch that lacks the capacity to accommodate and process such large numbers of people.
A US official told the Associated Press on Friday that the United States will likely move immigrants out of the country on five to eight trips a day, starting Sunday, while another official predicted no more than two trips a day and said everyone will be tested for COVID-19. . The first official said operational capacity and Haiti’s willingness to accept flights would determine the number of flights. Both officials were not allowed to discuss the matter publicly and spoke on condition of anonymity.
Many of the migrants, who were informed of the US plans on Saturday, said they still intended to stay in the camp and seek asylum. Some have spoken of the recent devastating earthquake in Haiti and the assassination of President Jovenel Moss, saying that they fear returning to a country that appears to be more turbulent than when they left.
“In Haiti, there is no security,” said Fabricio Jean, 38, a Haitian who arrived with his wife and two daughters. “The country is in a political crisis.”
Haitians have been immigrating to the United States in large numbers from South America for several years, many of whom left their Caribbean nation after a devastating 2010 earthquake. With jobs dried up from the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, many made the dangerous journey by foot, bus, and car To the US border, including through the infamous Darren Gap Forest, a Panamanian jungle.
Jorge Luis Mora Castillo, a 48-year-old from Cuba, said he arrived in Acona on Saturday and also planned to cross into the United States. The American nation where they lived for four years.
Castillo, when told of the United States’ letter discouraging immigrants, said he wouldn’t change his mind.
“Because returning to Cuba is death,” he said.
US Customs and Border Protection closed vehicular and pedestrian traffic in both directions on Friday at the only border crossing between Del Rio and Ciudad Acuña “to respond to urgent safety and security needs” and remained closed on Saturday. Travelers were directed indefinitely to a crossing at Eagle Pass, about 55 miles (90 kilometers) away.
Estimates of the crowd varied, but del Rio Mayor Bruno Lozano said Saturday night that there were 14,534 migrants in the camp under the bridge. Migrants pitched tents and built temporary shelters out of giant reeds known as carrizo canes. He bathed and washed a lot of clothes in the river.
It is unclear how so many gathered so quickly, although many Haitians were gathering in camps on the Mexican side of the border to wait while they were deciding whether to try to enter the United States.
The number of Haitian arrivals began to reach unsustainable levels for border patrols in Del Rio about two and a half weeks ago, prompting the agency’s acting sector chief, Robert Garcia, to seek assistance from headquarters, according to a US official unauthorized to discuss. It’s public.
Since then, the agency has transported Haitians in buses and vans to other Texas Border Patrol facilities, specifically El Paso, Laredo and Rio Grande Valley. They are mostly processed outside the authority related to the pandemic, which means they can seek asylum and remain in the United States while their applications are considered. U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement makes a custody determination, but families generally cannot be held for more than 20 days under a court order.
The official said the Homeland Security plan announced Saturday indicates a shift to using pandemic-related authority for immediate expulsion to Haiti without an opportunity to seek asylum.
The flight plan, while potentially huge in scope, depends on how the Haitians respond. They may have to decide whether to remain at risk of being sent back to their impoverished homeland wracked by poverty and political instability, or back to Mexico. Unaccompanied children are exempt from express expulsions.
The Department of Homeland Security said, “Our borders are not open, and people should not make a dangerous journey.”
“Individuals and families are subject to restrictions at the border, including expulsion,” the agency wrote. “Irregular migration poses a major threat to the health and well-being of border communities and the lives of migrants themselves, and it should not be attempted.”
US authorities are being severely tested after Democratic President Joe Biden quickly dismantled Trump administration policies that Biden deemed cruel or inhumane, most notably those requiring asylum seekers to remain in Mexico while awaiting US immigration court hearings.
The pandemic order to immediately expel migrants without giving them the opportunity to apply for asylum that was filed in March 2020 is still in effect, but unaccompanied children and many families have been exempted. During his first month in office, Biden chose to exempt children from traveling alone on humanitarian grounds.
Nicole Phillips, the legal director of the Haitian Bridge Alliance group, said Saturday that the US government should process immigrants and allow them to apply for asylum, not rush to expel them.
“It really is a humanitarian crisis,” Phillips said. “A lot of help is needed now.”
Mexico’s Migration Agency said in a statement on Saturday that Mexico has opened a “permanent dialogue” with representatives of the Haitian government “to address the situation of irregular migration flows during their entry and transit through Mexico, as well as to assist them in their return.”
The agency did not specify whether it was referring to Haitians in Ciudad Acuña or to thousands of others in Tapachula, on the border with Guatemala, and the agency did not immediately respond to a request for further details.
In August, US authorities stopped migrants nearly 209,000 times at the border, close to a 20-year high even though many of the stops involved repeat crossings because there are no legal consequences for expelling them under the pandemic authority.
Lozano reported from Ciudad Acuña, Mexico and Spagat reported from San Diego. Associated Press writers Ben Fox, Alexandra Jaffe, and Colin Long in Washington contributed to this report.
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