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. Yellow police tape was used to prevent them from using a small roadblock to enter the United States
Migrants first found other ways to cross nearby until they were confronted with federal and state law enforcement.
A Mexican policeman on the Mexican side of the border said migrants would no longer be allowed to cross. He wouldn’t give his name. But an Associated Press reporter saw Haitian immigrants still cross the river to the United States about 1.5 miles east of the previous point. They were then arrested by mounted border patrol officers 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 put them on. Others feared getting wet.
“Get out of the water,” officers shouted at the migrants who crossed the river waist-deep. The few hundred who had made it through and who were sitting along the bank on the American side were sent to the Del Rio camp. “Go now,” the officers shouted.
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.
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.
Border patrol chief Raul L. Ortiz said on Sunday that 3,300 migrants had already been evacuated from the 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, with 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 bridge.
The blockade and deportations marked a swift response to the sudden arrival of Haitians in Del Rio, a Texas town of about 35,000 people about 230 kilometers west of San Antonio. It sits on a relatively remote portion of the border that does not have the capacity to accommodate and process such a large number of people.
At Port-au-Prince airport, families arriving on the first plane held children by the hand or carried them out, and some deportees covered their heads as they entered a large bus parked next to the airport. airplane.
About a dozen officials from various Haitian government agencies gathered to meet with the deported Haitians. Public security officials from the Ministry of Justice have requested the presence of the Haitian National Police to prevent any potential violence.
An International Organization for Migration minibus was also stationed at the airport. It was filled with brightly colored bags containing toiletries, hand sanitizer, and hair ties.
All those deported have been tested for COVID-19, and the authorities do not plan to quarantine them, said Marie-Lourde Jean-Charles of the National Migration Office.
Haitian Prime Minister Ariel Henry wrote on Twitter on Sunday that he was concerned about the conditions in the border camp and that migrants would be welcome back.
“We want to reassure them that measures have already been taken to offer them a better welcome on their return home and that they will not be left behind,” he tweeted. Henry did not provide details on the measurements. A Haitian government spokesperson could not immediately be reached for comment.
But another Haitian political leader questioned whether the nation could 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.”
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.