Texas Migrant Camp Emptied 09/25 08:45
DEL RIO, Texas (AP) -- No migrants are left at a Texas border encampment,
about a week after nearly 15,000 people -- most of them Haitians -- huddled in
makeshift shelters hoping for the chance to seek asylum.
Some will get that chance, while the others will be expelled to their
homeland. The Department of Homeland Security planned to continue flights to
Haiti throughout the weekend, ignoring criticism from Democratic lawmakers and
human rights groups who say Haitian migrants are being sent back to a troubled
country that some left more than a decade ago.
Meanwhile, Bruno Lozano, the mayor of Del Rio, Texas, where the camp was
located, said officials would search the brush along the Rio Grande to ensure
nobody was hiding and finish cleaning the site before reopening the
international bridge. He said that would happen Sunday night at the earliest.
Officials also want to be sure no other large groups of migrants are making
their way to the Del Rio area who might decide to set up a similar camp, he
Lozano said there were no deaths during the time the camp was occupied and
that 10 babies were born to migrant mothers, either at the camp or in Del Rio's
"It took an urban village at this scale to help prevent any loss of life and
actually welcome the births of children here," said Lozano, who called the
relocation of all the migrants "phenomenal."
The number of migrants peaked last Saturday as migrants driven by confusion
over the Biden administration's policies and misinformation on social media
converged at the border crossing connecting Del Rio, Texas, and Ciudad Acua,
The U.S. and Mexico worked swiftly, appearing eager to end the humanitarian
situation that prompted the resignation of the U.S. special envoy to Haiti and
widespread outrage after images emerged of border agents maneuvering their
horses to forcibly block and move migrants.
On Friday, President Joe Biden said the way the agents used their horses was
"horrible" and that "people will pay" as a result. The agents have been
assigned to administrative duties while the administration investigates.
"There will be consequences," Biden told reporters. "It's an embarrassment,
but it's beyond an embarrassment -- it's dangerous, it's wrong, it sends the
wrong message around the world and sends the wrong message at home. It's simply
not who we are."
Later, Department of Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas spoke
cautiously about the pending investigation. Asked about the discrepancy, White
House press secretary Jen Psaki said Biden "was not prejudging an outcome" or
interfering with the investigation, but "was speaking from the heart."
Many migrants face expulsion because they are not covered by protections
recently extended by the Biden administration to the more than 100,000 Haitian
migrants already in the U.S., citing security concerns and social unrest in the
Western Hemisphere's poorest country. A devastating 2010 earthquake forced many
from their homeland.
Mayorkas said about 2,000 Haitians had been rapidly expelled on 17 flights
since Sunday and more could be expelled in coming days under pandemic powers
that deny people the chance to seek asylum.
The Trump administration enacted the policy, called Title 42, in March 2020
to justify restrictive immigration policies in an effort to prevent the spread
of the coronavirus. The Biden administration has used it to justify the
deportation of Haitian migrants.
A federal judge late last week ruled that the rule was improper and gave the
government two weeks to halt it, but the Biden administration appealed.
Officials said the U.S. State Department is in talks with Brazil and Chile
to allow some Haitians who previously resided there to return, but it's
complicated because some of them no longer have legal status there.
The Mexico office of the U.N.'s International Organization for Migration
released a statement late Friday saying it is looking for countries where some
Haitians have residency or where their children have citizenship as an
alternative to allowing them to be deported to Haiti.
"Should migrants be willing to return and should concerned states be in
agreement, IOM is ready to offer its expertise through its Assisted Voluntary
Return (AVR) Program to help these migrants return in a safe and informed
manner," the statement said.
Mayorkas said the U.S. has allowed about 12,400 migrants to enter the
country, at least temporarily, while they make claims before an immigration
judge to stay in the country under the asylum laws or for some other legal
reason. They could ultimately be denied and would be subject to removal.
Mayorkas said about 5,000 are in DHS custody and being processed to
determine whether they will be expelled or allowed to press their claim for
legal residency. Some returned to Mexico.
A U.S. official with direct knowledge of the situation said six flights were
scheduled to Haiti on Friday, with seven planned Saturday and six Sunday,
though that was subject to change. The official was not authorized to speak
In Mexico, around 50 migrants, most of them single men, remained Friday
evening in the riverside camp in Ciudad Acua. Dozens of families had crossed
back to Del Rio overnight after Mexican authorities left the area. Others moved
to small hotels or private homes in Ciudad Acua.
Luxon, a 31-year-old Haitian migrant who withheld his last name out of fear,
said he was leaving with his wife and son for Mexicali, about 900 miles (1,450
kilometers) west along Mexico's border with California.
"The option was to go to a place where there aren't a lot of people and
there request documents to be legal in Mexico," he said.
At the Val Verde Border Humanitarian Coalition in Del Rio, migrants stepped
off a white Border Patrol van on Friday, many smiling and looking relieved to
have been released into the U.S. Some carried sleeping babies. A toddler walked
behind her mother wrapped in a silver heat blanket.
A man who'd driven almost 1500 miles (2,414 kilometers) from Toledo, Ohio,
hoping to pick up a friend and her family wore a neon yellow vest and quietly
scanned the line of Haitian migrants. Dave, who didn't want to share his last
name, didn't see them.
"I feel like my friend is worth my time to come down and help," he said,
explaining that he wore the vest so his friend -- a nurse whom he'd met on a
humanitarian trip to Haiti over a decade ago -- would be able to spot him in
the crowd when she arrived with her husband and 3-year-old daughter.
"I just see it as an opportunity to serve somebody," said Dave, who
considers himself a Trump supporter but hates how politicized the immigration
issue has become. "We have so much."