Haitians on the Texas border without being discouraged by the US plan to deport them | Texas News
By JUAN A. LOZANO, ERIC GAY and ELLIOT SPAGAT, Associated Press
DEL RIO, Texas (AP) – Haitian migrants seeking to escape poverty, hunger and hopelessness in their home countries have said they would not be deterred by US plans to return them quickly, because thousands of people remained camped on the border of Texas Saturday after crossing Mexico.
Dozens of people crossed the Rio Grande on Saturday afternoon, returning to Mexico to purchase water, food and diapers in Ciudad Acuña before returning to the Texas encampment under and near a bridge in the city. border of Del Rio.
Junior Jean, a 32-year-old man from Haiti, watched as people carefully carried crates of water or bags of food through the river water up to their knees. Jean said he has lived on the streets in Chile for the past four years, resigned to looking for food in the trash.
“We are all looking for a better life,” he said.
The Department of Homeland Security said on Saturday it had moved around 2,000 migrants from the camp to other locations on Friday for processing and possible deportation from the United States. more if necessary.
The announcement marked a swift response to the sudden arrival of Haitians in Del Rio, a Texas town of about 35,000 residents about 230 kilometers west of San Antonio. It sits on a relatively remote stretch of border that does not have the capacity to accommodate and process such a large number of people.
A US official told The Associated Press on Friday that the United States would likely transport migrants out of the country on five to eight flights a day, starting on Sunday, while another official expected no more than two. per day and said everyone will be tested for COVID. -19. The first official said Haiti’s operational capacity and willingness to accept flights would determine the number of flights. The two officials were not authorized to discuss the matter publicly and spoke on condition of anonymity.
Informed of the US plans on Saturday, several migrants said they still intended to stay in the encampment and seek asylum. Some have spoken of the latest devastating earthquake in Haiti and the assassination of President Jovenel Moïse, saying they were afraid to return 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 with his wife and two daughters. “The country is in a political crisis.
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.
Jorge Luis Mora Castillo, a 48-year-old Cuban, said he arrived in Acuna on Saturday and also plans to visit the United States. Castillo said his family paid smugglers $ 12,000 to take him, his wife and their son out of the American nation where they had lived for four years.
On the US message discouraging migrants, Castillo said he would not change his mind.
“Because to return to Cuba is to die,” he said.
U.S. Customs and Border Protection on Friday closed two-way vehicle and pedestrian traffic at the only border crossing between Del Rio and Ciudad Acuña “to meet urgent safety and security needs” and it remained closed on Saturday. The travelers were directed to a passage indefinitely. to Eagle Pass, approximately 90 kilometers.
Crowd estimates varied, but Del Rio mayor Bruno Lozano said on Saturday evening that there were 14,534 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.
The number of Haitian arrivals started to reach unsustainable levels for the border patrol in Del Rio about two and a half weeks ago, prompting the agency’s acting sector chief, Robert Garcia, to ask for help at headquarters, according to a US official who was not authorized to discuss. the matter publicly.
Since then, the agency has transferred Haitians in buses and vans to other border patrol facilities in Texas, particularly El Paso, Laredo and the Rio Grande Valley. They are mostly processed outside of pandemic authority, which means they can seek asylum and remain in the United States while their claims are considered. US Immigration and Customs Enforcement makes the custody decision, but families typically cannot be detained for more than 20 days under a court order.
The internal security plan announced on Saturday signals a shift to using pandemic-related authority for immediate deportation to Haiti without the possibility of seeking asylum, the official said.
The flight plan, while potentially massive, depends on how Haitians react. They may have to decide whether to stay behind at the risk of being sent back to an impoverished homeland ravaged by poverty and political instability or return to Mexico. Unaccompanied minors are exempt from accelerated deportations.
DHS said: “Our borders are not open and people should not be making the dangerous journey.”
“Individuals and families are subject to border restrictions, including deportation,” the agency wrote. “Irregular migration poses a significant threat to the health and well-being of border communities and to the lives of migrants themselves, and should not be attempted. “
U.S. authorities are under severe strain after Democratic President Joe Biden quickly dismantled Trump administration policies that Biden considered cruel or inhumane, including requiring asylum seekers to stay in Mexico pending hearings in the US immigration court.
A pandemic-related order to immediately deport migrants without giving them the opportunity to seek asylum that was introduced in March 2020 remains in place, but unaccompanied children and many families have been exempted. During his first month in office, Biden chose to exempt children traveling alone for humanitarian reasons.
Nicole Phillips, legal director of the Haitian Bridge Alliance advocacy group, said on Saturday that the US government should treat migrants and allow them to seek asylum, not rush to deport them.
“It really is a humanitarian crisis,” said Phillips. “A lot of help is needed there now. “
The Mexican immigration agency said in a statement on Saturday that Mexico had opened a “permanent dialogue” with representatives of the Haitian government “to resolve the situation of irregular migratory flows during their entry and transit through Mexico. , as well as their assisted return “.
The agency did not say whether they were Haitians in Ciudad Acuña or thousands of others in Tapachula, on the Guatemalan border, and the agency did not immediately respond to a request for clarification.
In August, US authorities arrested migrants nearly 209,000 times at the border, which was near a 20-year high, even though many stops involved repeat transgressors as there are no legal consequences to be deported under the authority of the pandemic.
Lozano reported from Ciudad Acuña, Mexico and Spagat reported from San Diego. Associated Press editors Ben Fox, Alexandra Jaffe, and Colleen Long in Washington contributed to this report.
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