DEL RIO, TX / CIUDAD ACUNA, Mexico, Sept. 19 (Reuters) – U.S. authorities have moved 3,300 migrants in the last two days from a Texas border town where thousands of mostly Haitians have moved were gathered under a bridge after crossing the Rio Grande River from Mexico, officials said on Sunday.
Some of the migrants were later seen arriving in Haiti.
“Over the next 6-7 days, our goal is to process the 12,662 migrants we have under this bridge as quickly as possible,” US Border Patrol chief Raul Ortiz said at a press conference in Del Rio, Texas.
He said the United States was working with the countries of origin or countries through which migrants had passed to get them to accept those awaiting immigration processing under the bridge that connects Del Rio to Ciudad Acuña in Mexico. .
The migrants continued to cross the river despite the threat of being sent back and security tightened on the U.S. side which included law enforcement officers on horseback on Sunday, one of whom was seen swinging a rope at a no one wading through the Rio Grande.
Officials on both sides of the border said most of the migrants came from Haiti. Many Haitians who Reuters spoke to said they had been in South America before heading north more recently because they could not gain legal status or were struggling with racism and obtaining legal status. decent jobs.
Earlier Sunday, Reuters reporters saw a white bus escorted by U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officers enter Del Rio airport, then a group board a guard plane. -cotes. A police source said the people were migrants and a source close to airport operations said the plane was heading for El Paso, Texas.
Meanwhile, Tom Cartwright of the Witness at the Border advocacy group that tracks US Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) flights, told Reuters three flights had left Texas – one from Laredo and two from San Antonio. – transporting Haitians to Haiti on Sunday.
Alejandro Mayorkas, secretary of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), told another press conference that the deportation flights to Haiti that started on Sunday will continue on a daily basis. He said he could not detail the number of thefts or the number of Haitians for security reasons.
DHS said on Saturday it was speeding up deportations to Haiti, sending more CBP agents to the region and taking other steps to address the situation in Del Rio, where conditions under the bridge have become increasingly serious. more sordid.
After US law enforcement told Haitians on Sunday that they could no longer come and go to Mexico for supplies at the shallow crossing point they had previously used, migrants flocked to another stretch. from the river.
For hours, hundreds of migrants crossed the United States on their way to Mexico, with some telling Reuters they needed food and water for their families as there were few supplies in the encampment under the bridge.
At around noon, officers on horseback, some wearing vests bearing the inscription “US border patrol police”, galloped to block the passage of migrants who had come up the US bank with plastic bags and cartons of food. An officer swung a rope like a lasso near a migrant’s face in the water, Reuters footage showed. The American officers then put yellow tape on this section of the bank. The migrants proceeded to cross at a deeper point.
Cartwright, of Witness at the Border, expressed concern over the return of migrants to Haiti. In July the president of the impoverished nation was assassinated and in August a major earthquake and powerful storm hit the country. COVID-19 is also of concern, Cartwright said.
“Before the earthquake, Haiti did not have a strong health system,” he said. “And the fact that we were firing people, especially if they weren’t tested and didn’t test negative, would be a serious concern.”
Mayorkas told reporters that the Haitian government had “communicated quite clearly to us its ability to receive the flights” and said the US government was providing funds to Haiti to help. He did not specify the amount.
A US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention public health order known as Title 42, issued under the Trump administration at the start of the coronavirus pandemic, allows most migrants to be promptly deported without possibility of applying for asylum. President Joe Biden has kept this rule in place although he has exempted unaccompanied minors and his administration has not expelled most families. Biden had promised a more humane approach to immigration than that of his predecessor Donald Trump.
A judge ruled on Thursday that the policy could not be applied to families, but the ruling does not take effect for two weeks and the Biden administration has appealed.
As a rule, migrants can come to the border and apply for asylum, which triggers a lengthy legal process. The Trump administration has reduced protections, arguing that many asylum claims were bogus.
Reporting by Daina Solomon in Ciudad Acuña and Alexandra Ulmer in Del Rio; Additional reporting by David Alire, Maria Caspani, Kristina Cooke, Mica Rosenberg and Gessika Thomas; Editing by Donna Bryson and Daniel Wallis
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