US withdraws migrants from Texas border camp, begins flights to Haiti
DEL RIO, TX / CIUDAD ACUÑA, Mexico, Sept. 19 (Reuters) – U.S. border officials remove groups of mainly Haitian migrants from a large makeshift camp they set up after crossing the Rio Grande separating Mexico and the United States, as the first repatriation flight arrived in Haiti on Sunday.
The sprawling camp under the international bridge attracted over 12,000 migrants at one point and marked a new challenge for US authorities, who have sought to reduce the flow of Central Americans and now many Haitians who have fled endemic poverty, gang violence and natural disasters. residence.
US authorities have moved 3,300 migrants since Friday from Del Rio, Texas, and announced a new daily schedule of flights to the Haitian capital, Port-au-Prince, where some officials on Sunday expressed concern over a potentially influx. large number of returning migrants to the country. the next days.
“Over the next six to seven days, our goal is to process the 12,662 migrants we have under this bridge as quickly as possible,” US Border Patrol chief Raul Ortiz said at a press conference in Del Rio, Texas.
He said the United States was working with countries that migrants had passed through to get them to accept those awaiting immigration processing under the bridge that connects Del Rio to Ciudad Acuña, Mexico.
Migrants continued to cross the river over the weekend despite increased security on the US side which included officers on horseback on Sunday, one of whom was seen swinging a rope at a person wading through the Rio Grande . Read more
A Venezuelan migrant, who asked to remain anonymous because he was afraid to risk his asylum claim, said he saw many Haitians return to Mexico to avoid being sent back to Haiti.
FLIGHTS TO HAITITI
Officials on both sides of the border said most of the migrants came from Haiti, the poorest country in the Americas and hit hard by disasters in recent years, including a major earthquake last month.
Many Haitians told Reuters they had been to South America, including Brazil and Chile, before deciding to head north because they couldn’t gain legal status or were fighting racism. and securing jobs.
A bus escorted by U.S. border officials entered Del Rio airport earlier on Sunday, and a group could be seen boarding 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.
Tom Cartwright of the Witness at the Border advocacy group that tracks repatriation flights, said three flights left Texas for Haiti on Sunday.
Alejandro Mayorkas, head of the US Department of Homeland Security (DHS), told reporters on Sunday that flights to Haiti had started earlier today and would continue on a daily basis.
DHS had previously said it was speeding up repatriations to Haiti and sending more border officials to Del Rey, where conditions under the bridge became increasingly squalid.
Around noon on Sunday, border patrol officers on horseback galloped to block the path of migrants walking up the US bank with plastic bags and cartons of food.
An officer swung a rope like a lasso near a migrant’s face in the water, Reuters footage showed. US officers then threaded yellow tape over this section of the bank, but the migrants crossed to a deeper location.
Advocates like Cartwright have strongly criticized the rise of repatriation flights to Haiti.
But in his brief remarks, Mayorkas stressed that the Haitian government had “communicated quite clearly to us its ability to receive the flights” and said the US government is providing funds to Haiti to help. He did not specify the amount.
On Saturday, Haitian Prime Minister Ariel Henry said “arrangements have already been made” to receive those returned to the Caribbean nation. Read more
“We have no choice at this stage but to increase repatriation flights,” Mayorkas said, adding that the flights would take migrants either to Haiti or “possibly other countries”.
A Haitian immigration official, who was not authorized to speak to the media, said the country was unprepared for an influx of thousands of returning migrants.
A broad US public health order known as Title 42, issued under the Trump administration at the start of the pandemic, allows most migrants to be promptly deported without the ability to seek asylum.
President Joe Biden has kept this rule in place, although he has exempted unaccompanied minors and his administration has not expelled most families. Biden had promised a more humane approach to immigration than that of his predecessor.
A U.S. judge ruled last week that the policy could not be applied to families, but the ruling won’t 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. But the Trump administration cut protections, arguing that many asylum seekers were ineligible.
Reporting by Daina Solomon in Ciudad Acuña and Alexandra Ulmer in Del Rio; Additional reporting by David Alire Garcia, Maria Caspani, Kristina Cooke, Mica Rosenberg and Gessika Thomas; Editing by Donna Bryson, Daniel Wallis and Peter Cooney
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