Officials: Many migrants from border camp staying in US

Many Haitian migrants camped in a small Texas border town are being released in the United States, two US officials have said, undercutting the Biden administrations public statements that the thousands in the camp faced immediate expulsion.Haitians have been freed on a very, very large scale in recent days, according to one US official with direct knowledge of operations.


PTI | Washington DC | Updated: 23-09-2021 03:26 IST | Created: 23-09-2021 03:25 IST
Officials: Many migrants from border camp staying in US
Representative Image Image Credit: ANI
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Many Haitian migrants camped in a small Texas border town are being released in the United States, two US officials have said, undercutting the Biden administration's public statements that the thousands in the camp faced immediate expulsion.

Haitians have been freed on a "very, very large scale" in recent days, according to one US official with direct knowledge of operations. The official, who was not authorised to discuss the matter and thus spoke on condition of anonymity, put the figure in the thousands.

Many have been released with notices to appear at an immigration office within 60 days, an outcome that requires less processing time from Border Patrol agents than ordering an appearance in immigration court and points to the speed at which authorities are moving, the official said Tuesday.

The Homeland Security Department has been busing Haitians from Del Rio to El Paso, Laredo and Rio Grande Valley along the Texas border, and this week added flights to Tucson, Arizona, the official said. They are processed by the Border Patrol at those locations.

A second US official, also with direct knowledge and speaking on the condition of anonymity, said large numbers of Haitians were being processed under immigration laws and not being placed on expulsion flights to Hait i that started Sunday. The official couldn't be more specific about how many.

US authorities scrambled in recent days for buses to Tucson but resorted to flights when they couldn't find enough transportation contractors. Coast Guard planes took Haitians from Del Rio to El Paso.

The releases in the US were occurring despite a massive effort to expel Haitians on flights to Haiti under pandemic-related authority that denies migrants an opportunity to seek asylum. A third US official not authorised to discuss operations said there were seven daily flights to Haiti planned starting Wednesday.

Accounts of wide-scale releases - some observed at the Del Rio bus station by Associated Press journalists - are at odds with statements a day earlier by Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas, who travelled to Del Rio to promise swift action.

"If you come to the United States illegally, you will be returned, your journey will not succeed, and you will be endangering your life and your family's life," he said at a Monday news conference.

Homeland Security, asked to comment on releases in the United States, said Wednesday that migrants who are not immediately expelled to Haiti may be detained or released with a notice to appear in immigration court or report to an immigration office, depending on available custody space. The department declined to say how many have been released.

"The Biden Administration has reiterated that our borders are not open, and people should not make the dangerous journey," the department said in a statement. "Individuals and families are subject to border restrictions, including expulsion. 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." The releases come amid a quick effort to empty the camp under a bridge that, according to some estimates, held more than 14,000 people over the weekend in a town of 35,000 people. Texas Gov. Greg Abbott, during a visit Tuesday to Del Rio, said the county's top official told him the most recent tally at the camp was about 8,600 migrants.

The criteria for deciding who is flown to Haiti and who is released in the US was unclear, but two US officials said single adults were the priority for expulsion flights.

Meanwhile, Mexico has begun busing and flying Haitian migrants away from the US border, authorities said Tuesday, signalling a new level of support for the United States as the camp presented President Joe Biden with a humanitarian and increasingly political challenge.

The White House is facing sharp bipartisan condemnation. Republicans say Biden administration policies led Haitians to believe they would get asylum. Democrats are expressing outrage after images went viral this week of Border Patrol agents on horseback using aggressive tactics against the migrants.

Mexico has helped at key moments before. It intensified patrols to stop unaccompanied Central American children from reaching the Texas border in 2014, allowed tens of thousands of asylum-seekers to wait in Mexico for hearings in US immigration courts in 2019 and, just last month, began deporting Central American migrants to Guatemala after the Biden administration flew them to southern Mexico.

Marcelo Ebrard, Mexico's foreign relations secretary, said Tuesday he had spoken with his US counterpart, Secretary of State Antony Blinken, about the Haitians' situation. Ebrard said most of the Haitians already had refugee status in Chile or Brazil and weren't seeking it in Mexico.

"What they are asking for is to be allowed to pass freely through Mexico to the United States," Ebrard said.

Two Mexican federal officials, who requested anonymity because they were not authorized to speak publicly, confirmed Mexico's actions.

One of the officials said three busloads of migrants left Acuña on Tuesday morning for Piedras Negras, about 55 miles (90 kilometres) down the border, where they boarded a flight to the southern city of Villahermosa in the state of Tabasco.

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

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