Today's Edition Local Missouri National World Opinion Obits Sports GoMidMo Events Classifieds Newsletters Contests Special Sections Jobs
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
story.lead_photo.caption Haiti migrants waiting in Del Rio and Ciudad Acuña to get access to the United States, cross the Rio Grande toward Ciudad Acuña to get supplies, Friday, Sept. 17, 2021, in Ciudad Acuña, Mexico. Haitians crossed the Rio Grande freely and in a steady stream, going back and forth between the U.S. and Mexico through knee-deep water with some parents carrying small children on their shoulders. Unable to buy supplies in the U.S., they returned briefly to Mexico for food and cardboard to settle, temporarily at least, under or near the bridge in Del Rio, a city of 35,000 that has been severely strained by migrant flows in recent months. (Marie D. De Jesús/Houston Chronicle via AP)

DEL RIO, Texas (AP) — The U.S. plans to speed up its efforts to expel Haitian migrants on flights to their Caribbean homeland, officials said Saturday as agents poured into a Texas border city where thousands of Haitians have gathered after suddenly crossing into the U.S. from Mexico.

The Department of Homeland Security said in a statement that it moved about 2,000 of the migrants who had gathered under and near a bridge in the border city of Del Rio to other locations on Friday for processing and possible removal from the United States. It also said it would have 400 agents and officers in the area by Monday morning and was prepared to send more if necessary.

The announcement marks a swift response to the sudden arrival of Haitians in Del Rio, a city of about 35,000 people that's roughly 145 miles west of San Antonio and sits on a relatively remote stretch of border that lacks capacity to hold and process such large numbers of people.

A U.S. official told the Associated Press on Friday operational capacity and Haiti's willingness to accept flights will determine how many there will be. The official said progress was being made on negotiations with Haitian authorities.

The official said the U.S would likely fly five to eight planes a day, starting Sunday, while another official expected no more than two a day and said all migrants would be tested for COVID-19. Both officials were not authorized to discuss the matter publicly and spoke on the condition of anonymity.

U.S. Customs and Border Protection closed traffic to vehicles and pedestrians in both directions Friday at the only border crossing between Del Rio and Ciudad Acua, Mexico, "to respond to urgent safety and security needs." Travelers were being directed indefinitely to a crossing in Eagle Pass, 57 miles away.

Crowd estimates varied, but Val Verde County Sheriff Frank Joe Martinez said Friday there were about 13,700 new arrivals in Del Rio. Migrants pitched tents and built makeshift shelters from giant reeds known as carrizo cane. Many bathed and washed clothing in the river.

The flight plan, while potentially massive in scale, hinges on how Haitians respond. They might have to decide whether to stay put at the risk of being sent back to an impoverished homeland wracked by poverty and political instability or return to Mexico. Unaccompanied children are exempt from fast-track expulsions.

DHS said, "our borders are not open, and people should not make the dangerous journey."

"Individuals and families are subject to border restrictions, including expulsion," the agency wrote. "Irregular migration poses a significant threat to the health and welfare of border communities and to the lives of migrants themselves, and should not be attempted."

Stephen Miller, the main architect of former President Donald Trump's hardline policies and a frequent critic of the Biden administration, expressed doubt Haiti's government would agree to the number of flights for a large-scale operation. He recounted daily calls with U.S. State Department officials last year over Haiti's resistance to flights, with Haiti relenting only under the threat of sanctions.

About 500 Haitians were ordered off buses by Mexican immigration authorities in the state of Tamaulipas, about 120 miles south of the Texas border, the state government said in a news release Friday. They continued toward the border on foot.

Haitians have been migrating to the U.S. in large numbers from South America for several years, many having left their Caribbean nation after a devastating earthquake in 2010. After jobs dried up from the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, many made the dangerous trek by foot, bus and car to the U.S. border, including through the infamous Darien Gap, a Panamanian jungle.

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.

U.S. authorities are being severely tested after Biden quickly dismantled Trump administration policies that Biden considered cruel or inhumane, most notably one requiring asylum-seekers to remain in Mexico while waiting for U.S. immigration court hearings.

A pandemic-related order to immediately expel migrants without giving them the opportunity to seek asylum that was introduced in March 2020 remains in effect, but unaccompanied children and many families have been exempt. During his first month in office, Biden chose to exempt children traveling alone on humanitarian grounds.

COMMENTS - It looks like you're using Internet Explorer, which isn't compatible with our commenting system. You can join the discussion by using another browser, like Firefox or Google Chrome.
It looks like you're using Microsoft Edge. Our commenting system is more compatible with Firefox and Google Chrome.
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
/** **/