U.S. may fly Haitian migrants home from Texas starting Sunday
The United States could begin flying some of the thousands of Haitian migrants who have crossed from Mexico into a Texas border camp back to their poverty-stricken homeland on Sunday, hoping to deter others from crossing into the country.
Many migrants who have been living in Latin America since years are looking for asylum in America. Many of the migrants have lived under or near the Texas border town of Del Rio for many years and said that they won’t be stopped by U.S. plans.
Some said the recent devastating earthquake in Haiti and the assassination of President Jovenel Moïse make them afraid to return to a country that seems more unstable than when they left.
Fabricio Jean is a 38 year-old Haitian, who arrived in Texas along with his wife and daughters. The country is currently in political crisis.
The Associated Press was told by a U.S. official that they would probably fly migrants from the United States starting Sunday, on five to eight flights per day. One official predicted that there would be no more than two flights each day. First, the official stated that Haiti’s ability to receive flights and its operational capacity would dictate how many flights there are. The officials spoke under anonymity as they weren’t authorized to speak publicly about the issue.
Scores of people waded back and forth across the Rio Grande on Saturday, re-entering Mexico to purchase water, food and diapers in Ciudad Acuña before returning to the Texas encampment.
Junior Jean, a 32 year-old Haitian man, observed as the people carefully carried water bottles and food bags through the river’s high water. Jean stated that he had lived in Chile for the last four years and was content to search in trash cans for food.
He stated that everyone is looking for a better way of life.
Ariel Henry (Haiti’s Prime Minister) tweeted Sunday his concern about the conditions in the camp at the border and hoped that they would welcome the migrants back.
He tweeted, “We want them to be reassured that we have taken measures to ensure they are given a warm welcome when they return to our country” Henry provided no details regarding the plans. Unable to reach a spokesperson for the Haitian government, Henry did not provide any details.
According to the Department of Homeland Security, about 2000 migrants were moved from the camp Friday in order for them to be processed and possibly removed from the U.S. The agency released a statement saying that 400 officers and agents would be present by Monday morning. It would also send additional personnel if needed.
It was a quick response to the arrival of Haitians in Del Rio. This Texas city is about 35,000 inhabitants and lies approximately 145 miles west San Antonio. The border is far too remote to allow for large amounts of people processing.
Since 2010, many Haitians have been moving to the U.S. from South America in large numbers, some having fled their Caribbean country following the devastating 2010 earthquake. Many made dangerous treks by car, foot and bus to reach the U.S. border after jobs were lost in Rio de Janeiro’s 2016 Summer Olympics.
U.S. Customs and Border Protection closed off vehicle and pedestrian traffic in both directions Friday at the only border crossing between Del Rio and Ciudad Acuña “to respond to urgent safety and security needs” and it remained closed Saturday. The Eagle Pass crossing was 55 miles from the border. Travelers were directed to it indefinitely.
While crowd estimates were not consistent, Del Rio Mayor Bruno Lozano claimed Saturday that more than 14,000. The migrants pitched their tents, and made shelters in the giant reeds they call carrizocane. Many people bathed or washed clothes in the river.
While it’s not known how this large group managed to accumulate so fast, many Haitians have been gathering at the Mexican border in order to watch and wait as they decide whether or not to try to get into the U.S.
According to an unidentified American official, the Border Patrol in Del Rio noticed that the number of Haitian immigrants was reaching unacceptable levels around 2 1/2 weeks back. Robert Garcia, the acting sector chief for the agency, contacted headquarters to request assistance.
The agency has since transferred Haitians by buses and vans into other Border Patrol facilities throughout Texas. These include El Paso Laredo, Rio Grande Valley, and Laredo. Most of them are processed without the government’s pandemic related authority. This allows them to claim asylum while they wait for their claims to be considered. U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement takes custody decisions. However, families cannot be kept for more than twenty days without a court order.
According to the official, Homeland Security’s Saturday announcement signals that it will use pandemic-related authority to expel Haiti immediately without offering asylum.
While the flights planned are massive, their success depends on Haitians’ responses. The decision may be made by the children to either stay or go back to their homeland. Expulsions of unaccompanied children can be accelerated but they are not exempted.
Homeland Security stated in a statement, that “our borders were not open” and advised people not to make dangerous travels.
The agency stated that individuals and their families were subject to restrictions at the border, which included expulsion.
The United States authorities are under severe scrutiny after President Joe Biden swiftly dismantled Trump’s administration policies, which Biden considered inhumane or cruel. This included one that required asylum seekers to stay in Mexico while they waited for U.S. immigration court proceedings.
An order to expel all migrants immediately without giving them an opportunity to apply for asylum, which was issued in March 2020 due to a pandemic, is still in place.