Migrants left Texas border town by plane after thousands crossed the Rio Grande
By Daina Beth Solomon and Alexandra Ulmer
DEL RIO, Texas / CIUDAD ACUNA, Mexico, Sept. 19 (Reuters) – United States on Sunday, authorities evacuated migrants from a Texas border town where thousands of Haitians, mostly, had gathered under a bridge after crossing the Rio Grande river from Mexico.
Reuters reporters saw a white bus escorted by U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officers enter Del Rio airport, then a group board a Coast Guard plane. A police source said the people were migrants and a source close to airport operations said the plane was heading for El Paso, Texas.
Meanwhile, Tom Cartwright of the Witness at the Border advocacy group that tracks US Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) flights, told Reuters three flights had left Texas – one from Laredo and two from San Antonio. – transporting Haitians to Haiti on Sunday.
ICE spokespersons did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) announced on Saturday that it was speeding up deportations to Haiti, sending more CBP agents to the region and other measures to address the humanitarian and political challenge posed by thousands of people s ‘sheltering in increasingly sordid conditions under the bridge. which connects Del Rio to Ciudad Acuña in Mexico.
Officials on both sides of the border said most of the migrants came from Haiti.
Reuters saw a dozen law enforcement officers on the US side of the border on Sunday, some on horseback. A Texas Department of Public Safety (DPS) helicopter flew over the sky and a yellow tape saying “Sheriff’s line does not cross” was suspended.
Haitian Jean Agenord, his Chilean wife Makarena Vines and their 17-month-old son were prevented from crossing on Sunday.
Agenord, resting his arms on a cardboard box with his feet still in the water, told Reuters the family had spent all their money and had nowhere to stay in Mexico.
“I cannot cross here, I cannot cross there,” he said. “What am I going to do?”
The couple asked locals if they knew of a place to stay in Mexico, saying they would try to cross again.
The embankment on the Mexican side was littered with water bottles and takeout boxes, signs of the many people who had crossed the river to the United States while awaiting immigration processing. The migrants had returned to Mexico to purchase supplies to take to the camp under the bridge, but appeared unable to do so on Sunday.
“ACCESS IS BLOCKED”
Reuters was unable to approach the area where Del Rio mayor Bruno Lozano said in a video on Saturday evening that just over 14,000 migrants were camping.
“Access is blocked” to the river, Haitian migrant Eddyson Langlais, 24, told Reuters on Sunday morning by text message. “Last night they gave out water and a small snack. I don’t know about today.”
Many Haitians at the border who spoke to Reuters said they left their troubled homeland and initially settled in South America. They headed north more recently because they couldn’t get legal status or were struggling with racism and getting decent jobs.
DHS said on Saturday it would speed up migrant flights to Haiti and other destinations over the next 72 hours. He said US authorities had moved some 2,000 people from Del Rio to other US immigration processing stations on Friday and would continue this transfer of migrants “to ensure that irregular migrants are promptly arrested, treated and deported from the United States in accordance with our laws and policies. “
DHS added that it was working with countries where migrants started their journey – for many Haitians, countries like Brazil and Chile – to accept return migrants.
Cartwright, of Witness at the Border, expressed concern over the return of migrants to Haiti. In July the president of the impoverished nation was assassinated and in August a major earthquake and powerful storm hit the country. COVID-19 is also of concern, Cartwright said.
“Before the earthquake, Haiti did not have a strong health system,” he said. “And the fact that we were firing people, especially if they weren’t tested and didn’t test negative, would be a serious concern.”
A US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention public health order known as Title 42, issued under the Trump administration at the start of the coronavirus pandemic, allows most migrants to be promptly deported without possibility of applying for asylum. President Joe Biden has kept this rule in place although he has exempted unaccompanied minors and his administration has not expelled most families.
A judge ruled on Thursday that the policy could not be applied to families, but the ruling does not take effect for two weeks and the Biden administration has appealed.
As a rule, migrants can come to the border and apply for asylum, which triggers a lengthy legal process. The Trump administration has reduced protections, arguing that many asylum claims were bogus.
The Biden administration granted temporary aid to around 150,000 Haitians in the United States earlier this year, protecting them from deportation. This relief does not apply to newcomers. Expulsion and expulsion are technically different – the expulsion is much faster. (Reporting by Daina Solomon in Ciudad Acuña and Alexandra Ulmer in Del Rio; Additional reporting by Maria Caspani, Kristina Cooke and Mica Rosenberg; Editing by Donna Bryson and Daniel Wallis)