DEL RIO, Texas – Haitian migrants trying to escape a sense of poverty, hunger and despair in their home country said they would not be deterred by US plans to swiftly send them back, as thousands camped at the Texas border on Saturday Had happened. from Mexico.
Scores of people drove back and forth across the Rio Grande on Saturday afternoon, re-entering Ciudad Acua to buy water, food and diapers in Mexico, before crossing a bridge in and near the border city of Del Rio, Texas. returned to the camp.
Junior Jean, a 32-year-old man from Haiti, watched people carefully carry cases of water or bags of food through knee-high river waters. Jean said he had spent the past four years on the streets in Chile, resigned to searching for food in garbage cans.
“We are all looking for a better life,” he said.
The Department of Homeland Security said on Saturday that it moved about 2,000 migrants from the camp to other locations on Friday for processing and possible removal from the US. more if necessary.
The announcement marked a swift response to the sudden arrival of Haitians in Del Rio, the Texas city of about 35,000 people, about 145 miles (230 kilometers) west of San Antonio. It is located on a relatively remote part of the border which lacks the capacity to capture and process such a large number of people.
A US official told The Associated Press on Friday that the US would probably fly migrants out of the country in five to eight flights a day starting Sunday, while another official expected no more than two a day and Said everyone would be tested for COVID. -19. The first official said that operational capacity and Haiti’s willingness to accept flights will determine how many flights there will be. The two officials were not authorized to discuss the matter publicly and spoke on condition of anonymity.
Explained on Saturday about US plans, many migrants said they still intended to stay in the camp and seek refuge. Some spoke of the most recent devastating earthquake in Haiti and the assassination of President Jovenel Mosse, saying they were afraid to return to a country that seems more volatile than they left.
“In Haiti, there is no security,” said Fabrico Jean, a 38-year-old Haitian who arrived with his wife and two daughters. “The country is in a political crisis.”
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 2010 earthquake. After jobs were eliminated from the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, many people made the dangerous trek by foot, bus and car to the US border, including the infamous Darien Gap, a Panamanian wilderness.
Jorge Luis Mora Castillo, 48, of Cuba, said he arrived in Acua on Saturday and also planned to cross into the US Castillo, adding that his family used smugglers to take him, his wife and their son out of Paraguay. Paid $12,000. American nation where they lived for four years.
Describing the US message discouraging migrants, Castillo said he would not change his mind.
“Because to go back to Cuba is to die,” he said.
US Customs and Border Protection closed vehicular and foot traffic in both directions on Friday at the only border crossing between Del Rio and Ciudad Acua “to respond to urgent safety and security needs,” and it remained closed on Saturday. Passengers were being directed indefinitely to a crossing at Eagle Pass, about 55 miles (90 km) away.
Crowd estimates varied, but Del Rio Mayor Bruno Lozano said there were 14,534 immigrants in the camp under the bridge on Saturday evening. 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.
It is unclear how such large numbers accumulated so quickly, although many Haitians are gathering in camps on the Mexican side of the border to decide whether to attempt to enter the Americas.
According to a US official who was not authorized to discuss, the number of Haitian arrivals began reaching unsustainable levels for the Border Patrol in Del Rio about two and a half weeks ago, prompting the agency’s acting area chief, Robert Garcia, to seek help from headquarters. . matter publicly.
Since then, the agency has transferred Haitians to other Border Patrol facilities in Texas, particularly in buses and vans in El Paso, Laredo and the Rio Grande Valley. They are mostly processed outside pandemic-related authority, meaning they can claim asylum and remain in the US while their claims are considered. US Immigration and Customs Enforcement decides the custody but families generally cannot be held for more than 20 days under a court order.
Homeland Security’s plan on Saturday signaled a shift to the use of pandemic-related authorization for immediate evictions without an opportunity to claim asylum in Haiti, the official said.
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 eviction,” 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.”
US officials are being severely tested after Democratic President Joe Biden quickly ended the Trump administration’s policies that Biden deemed cruel or inhumane, especially asylum while awaiting a US immigration court hearing. Seekers need to be in Mexico.
An epidemiological order to immediately evacuate 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.
“This is really a humanitarian crisis,” Phillips said. “There’s a lot of help out there now.”
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.
The agency did not specify whether it was referring to Haitians in Ciudad Acua on the Guatemala border or thousands of others in Tapachula, and the agency did not immediately respond to a request for more details.
In August, US officials stopped migrants nearly 209,000 times at the border, close to a 20-year high, although many stops involved repeated crossers with no legal consequences for being expelled under pandemic authorization. Huh.
Lozano reported from Ciudad Acua, Mexico, and Spaget from San Diego. Associated Press writers Ben Fox, Alexandra Jaffe and Colleen Long in Washington contributed to this report.