The Biden administration is planning to send thousands of migrants who have gathered under a bridge near a Texas border crossing back to their home nation of Haiti beginning Sunday, the Associated Press reported Friday night.
The AP cited an official who said that between five and eight flights per day would depart from various cities in an effort to relieve the pressure on local and federal officials in the city of Del Rio. It was not immediately clear which cities would be used for the departure flights.
More than 13,000 migrants, the vast majority from Haiti, were estimated to have taken shelter under the International Bridge that connects Del Rio with Ciudad Acuna, Mexico as of Friday night — and hundreds more are arriving each day.
Unable to purchase supplies in the US after wading across the knee-deep Rio Grande, they have returned to Mexico briefly for food and cardboard before settling down under the bridge to wait to be picked up by border authorities.
Val Verde County Judge Lewis Owens told the AP that some families had been under the bridge for as long as six days. Trash piles are spread 10 feet wide, and at least two women have given birth, including one who tested positive for COVID-19 after being taken to a hospital, Owens said.
On Friday, US Customs and Border Protection (CBP) announced that it was closing the Del Rio crossing “to respond to urgent safety and security needs.” Travelers were being directed to Eagle Pass, Texas, 57 miles away.
Haitians have been migrating to the US in large numbers from South America for several years, many of them having left the Caribbean nation after a devastating earthquake in 2010. After jobs dried up following the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, many made the dangerous trek by foot, bus and car to the US-Mexico border.
It is unclear how such a large number amassed so quickly, though many Haitians have been assembling in camps on the Mexican side of the border to wait while deciding whether to attempt to enter the United States.
Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) blamed the Biden administration for the chaos Thursday, claiming that the White House had ordered a stop to deportation flights to Haiti.
“There were about 900 Haitians who were getting ready to board the flights when the political operatives in Washington canceled the flights,” Cruz claimed to Fox News’ Sean Hannity. “Well, what happened? Those 900 people, they all pulled out their cellphones and they emailed their friends and they emailed their families and they texted their friends and their families …. 700 people have grown to 10,500 because the word has gone out: If you’re from Haiti, Joe Biden and Kamala Harris have said, ‘We have open borders, come to Del Rio and they will let you in.’”
However, Edgar Rodríguez, lawyer for the Casa del Migrante migrant shelter in Piedras Negras, north of Del Rio, told the AP he noticed an increase of Haitians in the area two or three weeks ago and believes that misinformation may have played a part. Migrants often make decisions on false rumors that policies are about to change and that enforcement policies vary by city.
Dramatic images of the sea of humanity under the bridge are another blemish on the Biden administration, whose border policies have been blamed for spurring a wave of illegal immigration along the southwestern frontier — particularly in the Rio Grande Valley.
On Thursday, CBP confirmed that border officials had encountered 208,887 migrants at the southwestern frontier in August. That total, while slightly down from the 213,534 migrants encountered in July, marks the first time that more than 200,000 migrant encounters have been recorded in consecutive months since February and March 2000 (211,328 and 220,063, respectively).
People crossing in families were stopped 86,487 times in August, but fewer than 20 percent of those encounters resulted in expulsion under the pandemic-related authority known as Title 42. The rest were processed under immigration laws, which typically means they were released with a court date or a notice to report to immigration authorities.
The Biden administration also announced Friday that it would appeal a federal judge’s ruling from a day earlier that blocked it from applying Title 42 to any migrant families.
With Post wires