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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."

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