DEL RIO, Texas (AP) – The United States acted on Sunday to stem the flow of migrants to Texas by blocking the Mexican border in a remote town where thousands of Haitian refugees have set up camp, and US authorities have started to repatriate some migrants. to their homeland.
About a dozen Texas Department of Public Safety vehicles lined up near the bridge and river where Haitians crossed from Ciudad Acuña, Mexico to Del Rio, Texas for nearly three weeks.
The migrants first found other ways to cross nearby until they were confronted with federal and state law enforcement. An Associated Press reporter saw Haitian immigrants still crossing the river to the United States about 1.5 miles east of the previous point, but they were eventually stopped by border patrol officers on horseback and Texas law enforcement officials.
As they crossed, some Haitians carried crates full of food on their heads. Some took off their pants before entering the river and took them away. Others weren’t afraid to get wet.
Officers shouted at the waist-deep migrants crossing the river to get out of the water. The few hundred who had crossed successfully and were sitting along the bank on the American side were sent to the Del Rio camp. “Go now,” the officers shouted. Mexican officials aboard an airboat told others who were trying to cross back to Mexico.
Migrant Charlie Jean had returned from the camps in Ciudad Acuña to collect food for his wife and three daughters, aged 2, 5 and 12. He was waiting on the Mexican side for a restaurant to bring him an order for rice.
“We need food for every day. I can do without it, but my kids can’t, ”said Jean, who had lived in Chile for five years before starting the journey north to the United States. It was not known if he had returned to the camp.
Mexico announced on Sunday that it would also begin to deport Haitians to their homeland. A government official said the flights would come from towns close to the US border and the border with Guatemala, where the largest group remains.
Haitians have migrated to the United States in large numbers from South America for several years, many having left their Caribbean countries after a devastating earthquake in 2010. After jobs have dried up since the Olympic Games d he summer of 2016 in Rio de Janeiro, many made the dangerous journey by foot, bus and car to the US border, including through the infamous Darien Gap, a Panamanian jungle.
Some migrants from Del Rio camp said the recent devastating earthquake in Haiti and the assassination of President Jovenel Moïse made them fearful of returning to a country that seemed more unstable than when they left.
“In Haiti, there is no security,” said Fabricio Jean, a 38-year-old Haitian who arrived in Texas with his wife and two daughters. “The country is in a political crisis.
Border patrol chief Raul L. Ortiz said on Sunday that 3,300 migrants had already been evacuated from Del Rio camp to planes or detention centers, and he expects 3,000 of the approximately 12,600 migrants remainder are moved during the day. The rest should be gone within a week, he said. The first three planes left San Antonio for Port-au-Prince on Sunday, the first arriving in the afternoon.
“We are working around the clock to quickly move migrants out of the heat, elements and under this bridge to our processing facilities to quickly process and remove individuals from the United States in accordance with our laws and policies,” Ortiz said at a press conference at the Del Rio Bridge. The Texas city of about 35,000 people is located approximately 230 kilometers west of San Antonio.
The swift deportations were made possible by a pandemic-related authority adopted by former President Donald Trump in March 2020 that allows migrants to be immediately deported from the country without the ability to seek asylum. President Joe Biden exempted unaccompanied children from the order but left the rest in place.
Any Haitian who is not deported is subject to immigration laws, which include the right to seek asylum and other forms of humanitarian protection. Families are quickly released in the United States as the government generally cannot detain children.
Meanwhile in Haiti, three flights landed at Port-au-Prince airport, each carrying 145 people.
Families arriving on the first flight held the children by the hand or carried them as they exited, and some of the 145 deportees covered their heads as they boarded a large bus parked next to the plane. Dozens of people lined up to receive a plate of rice, beans, chicken and plantains as they wondered where they would sleep and how they would earn money to support their families.
All those deported received $ 100 and were tested for COVID-19, although authorities did not plan to quarantine them, said Marie-Lourde Jean-Charles of the National Migration Office.
Gary Monplaisir, 26, said his parents and sister live in Port-au-Prince, but that he was not sure he would stay with them because to join their home, him, his wife and their daughter. 5-year-olds would pass through a gang-controlled area called Martissant where murders are rife.
“I’m scared,” he said. “I don’t have a plan.”
He moved to Chile in 2017, just as he was about to earn an accounting degree, to work as a tow truck driver. He then paid for his wife and daughter to join him. They tried to reach the United States because he thought he could find a better paying job and help his family in Haiti.
“We are always looking for better opportunities,” he said.
Some migrants said they plan to leave Haiti again as soon as possible. Valeria Ternission, 29, said she and her husband wanted to travel with their 4-year-old son to Chile, where she worked as a cashier in a bakery.
“I am really worried, especially for the child,” she said. “I can’t do anything here.”
A Haitian political leader asked on Sunday if the nation can handle an influx of returning migrants and said the government should stop the repatriation.
“We have the situation in the south with the earthquake. The economy is a disaster, (and) there are no jobs, ”Election Minister Mathias Pierre said, adding that most Haitians cannot meet basic needs. “The Prime Minister should negotiate with the US government to stop these deportations at this time of crisis.”
Lozano reported from Ciudad Acuña, Mexico, Sanon from Port-au-Prince, Haiti, and Spagat from San Diego. Associated Press editors Danica Coto in San Juan, Puerto Rico, and Maria Verza in Mexico City also contributed to this report.
Follow AP’s coverage of migration at https://apnews.com/hub/migration
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