US launches mass expulsion of Haitian migrants from Texas

In all, US authorities moved to expel many of the more than 12,000 migrants camped around a bridge in Del Rio, Texas, after crossing from Ciudad Acuna, Mexico.Mexico also said it would deport Haitian migrants, and began busing them from Ciudad Acua Sunday evening, according to Luis Angel Urraza, president of the local chamber of commerce.


PTI | Delrio | Updated: 20-09-2021 23:25 IST | Created: 20-09-2021 23:14 IST
US launches mass expulsion of Haitian migrants from Texas
Representative image Image Credit: ANI
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  • Haiti

The US is flying Haitians camped in a Texas border town back to their homeland and blocking others from crossing the border from Mexico in a massive show of force that signals the beginning of what could be one of America's swiftest, large-scale expulsions of migrants or refugees in decades.

More than 320 migrants arrived in Port-au-Prince on three flights Sunday, and Haiti said six flights were expected Tuesday. In all, US authorities moved to expel many of the more than 12,000 migrants camped around a bridge in Del Rio, Texas, after crossing from Ciudad Acuna, Mexico.

Mexico also said it would deport Haitian migrants, and began busing them from Ciudad Acuña Sunday evening, according to Luis Angel Urraza, president of the local chamber of commerce. He said he saw the first two buses leave from in front of his restaurant with about 90 people aboard.

"There isn't room for them in the city anymore; we can't help them anymore,'' he said.

Mexico's immigration agency did not immediately respond to a request for comment. But a federal official told The Associated Press on Sunday that the plan was to take the migrants to Monterrey, in northern Mexico, and Tapachula, in the south, with flights to Haiti from those cities to begin in coming days.

The US plans to begin seven expulsion flights daily on Wednesday, four to Port-au-Prince and three to Cap-Haitien, according to a US official who was not authorised to discuss the matter publicly. Flights will continue to depart from San Antonio but authorities may add El Paso, the official said.

The only obvious parallel for such an expulsion without an opportunity to seek asylum was in 1992 when the Coast Guard intercepted Haitian refugees at sea, said Yael Schacher, senior US advocate at Refugees International whose doctoral studies focused on the history of US asylum law.

Similarly large numbers of Mexicans have been sent home during peak years of immigration but over land and not so suddenly.

Central Americans have also crossed the border in comparable numbers without being subject to mass expulsion, although Mexico has agreed to accept them from the US under pandemic-related authority in effect since March 2020. Mexico does not accept expelled Haitians or people of other nationalities outside of Mexico, Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador.

When the border was closed Sunday, the migrants initially found other ways to cross nearby until they were confronted by federal and state law enforcement. An Associated Press reporter saw Haitian immigrants still crossing the river into the US about 1.5 miles (2.4 km) east of the previous spot, but they were eventually stopped by Border Patrol agents on horseback and Texas law enforcement officials.

As they crossed, some Haitians carried boxes on their heads filled with food. Some removed their pants before getting into the river and carried them. Others were unconcerned about getting wet.

Agents yelled at the migrants who were crossing in the waist-deep river to get out of the water. The several hundred who had successfully crossed and were sitting along the river bank on the US side were ordered to the Del Rio camp. "Go now," agents yelled. Mexican authorities in an airboat told others trying to cross to go back into Mexico.

Migrant Charlie Jean had crossed back into Ciudad Acuña from the camps to get food for his wife and three daughters, ages 2, 5 and 12. He was waiting on the Mexican side for a restaurant to bring him an order of rice.

"We need food for every day. I can go without, but my kids can't," said Jean, who had been living in Chile for five years before beginning the trek north to the US. It was unknown if he made it back across and to the camp.

In Mexico, local authorities of border municipalities have asked for help from state and federal authorities. Claudio Bres, Piedras Negras mayor told local media that the official agreement is to turn back all the buses with migrants to prevent them from reaching the border. He said that last weekend round 70 buses passed through his town.

Haitians have been migrating to the US in large numbers from South America for several years, many having left their Caribbean nation after a devastating 2010 earthquake. 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 US border, including through the infamous Darien Gap, a Panamanian jungle.

Some of the migrants at the Del Rio camp said the recent devastating earthquake in Haiti and the assassination of President Jovenel Moise make them afraid to return to a country that seems 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." Since Friday, 3,300 migrants have already been removed from the Del Rio camp to planes or detention centres, Border Patrol Chief Raul L Ortiz said Sunday. He expected to have 3,000 of the approximately 12,600 remaining migrants moved within a day, and aimed for the rest to be gone within the week.

"We are working around the clock to expeditiously move migrants out of the heat, elements and from underneath this bridge to our processing facilities in order to quickly process and remove individuals from the United States consistent with our laws and our policies," Ortiz said at news conference at the Del Rio bridge. The Texas city of about 35,000 people sits roughly 145 miles (230 km) west of San Antonio.

Six flights were scheduled in Haiti on Tuesday — three in Port-au-Prince and three in the northern city of Cap-Haitien, said Jean Négot Bonheur Delva, Haiti's migration director.

(This story has not been edited by Devdiscourse staff and is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)

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