United States closes part of Texas border and begins repatriating Haitians | News, Sports, Jobs
DEL RIO – Hoping to stop the flow of migrants, the United States on Sunday attempted to block the Mexican border in a remote town in Texas where thousands of Haitian refugees have set up a camp, but migrants quickly found other means of cross nearby.
The attempt to close the border came as authorities also began to return some migrants to their countries of origin.
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
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.
Several hundred were seated along the river bank on the American side as 50 to 60 at a time made the crossing to and from Mexico through waist-deep water. There were a few American officers observing the crossings, but taking no action to stop them.
Many migrants have lived in Latin America for years, but now they seek asylum in the United States as economic opportunities in Brazil and elsewhere dry up. Thousands of people live under and near a bridge in Del Rio.
Meanwhile, the United States has sent three flights of Haitians brought back from Del Rio to their home countries, and that number is expected to rise to at least six a day soon, according to a US government official who requested the anonymity because the official was not authorized to discuss the matter publicly. The planes left San Antonio and were due to arrive Sunday afternoon in Port-au-Prince, the capital of Haiti.
A large number of buses arrived in Del Rio on Sunday, and “a lot, a lot more” come to transfer Haitians to deportation flights, American immigrant detention centers and border patrol detention centers. The departure cities for flights to Haiti have not yet been finalized and are underway “Actively planned” said the official.
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 on Sunday, a dozen officials from various Haitian government agencies gathered to meet 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.
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 asked on Sunday if 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.
Dozens of people crossed the Rio Grande on Saturday, returning to Mexico to buy water, food and diapers in Ciudad Acuña before returning to the Texas encampment. With this road now blocked, this area of the Mexican city was now deserted, but Haitians could be found near their new crossing point.
Migrant Charlie Jean had returned to Ciudad Acuña to look for food for his wife and three daughters, aged 2, 5 and 12. He was waiting for a restaurant to bring him an order for rice.
“We need food for every day. I can do without it, but my children cannot ”, said Jean, who had lived in Chile for five years before starting the journey north to the United States
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.
Crowd estimates varied, but Del Rio mayor Bruno Lozano said on Saturday evening that there were more than 14,500 immigrants in the camp under the bridge. The migrants pitched tents and built makeshift shelters from giant reeds known as the carrizo cane. Many bathed and washed clothes in the river.
It is not known how such a large number amassed so quickly, although many Haitians have gathered in camps on the Mexican side of the border to wait before deciding to attempt to enter the United States.