Haitian migrants intend to stay at the Texas border despite plans to deport them

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Haitian migrants seeking to escape poverty, hunger and despair in their countries of origin said they would not be deterred by U.S. plans to return them quickly, as thousands remained camped out. Texas border.

Dozens of people crossed the Rio Grande on Saturday, returning to Mexico to buy water, food and diapers before returning to an encampment under and near a bridge in Del Rio, a town on the Texas border.

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. Many tents pitched and built makeshift shelters from giant reeds known as the carrizo cane. Others bathed and washed their clothes in the river.

It is not known how so many have amassed so quickly. The number of Haitian arrivals started to reach unsustainable levels for the border patrol in Del Rio about two weeks ago, prompting the agency’s acting sector chief, Robert Garcia, to ask for more. assistance at headquarters, according to a US official who spoke anonymously.

Junior Jean, 32, from Haiti, saw people carrying crates of water or bags of food across the river at knee height. 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 US Department of Homeland Security said it had moved around 2,000 migrants from the camp on Friday, for treatment and possible deportation. He also said he would have 400 agents in the area by Monday and send more if needed.

The announcement marked a swift response to the sudden arrival of Haitians in Del Rio, a town of about 35,000 people about 145 miles west of San Antonio and on a relatively remote stretch of border.

A federal official said the United States would likely transport migrants out of the country on five to eight flights a day starting Sunday. Another official expected no more than two a day and said everyone would be tested for Covid-19. The first official said Haiti’s operational capacity and willingness to accept flights would determine the number of flights.

Informed of the US plans, several migrants said they 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 Moise, saying they were afraid to return to a country that seems more unstable than when they left.

“In Haiti, there is no security,” explains Fabricio Jean, 38, 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 country after the devastating earthquake of 2010. Many made the dangerous trek on foot, by bus and by car. , 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 the smugglers $ 12,000 to take him, his wife and their son out of Paraguay, where they had lived for four years.

Informed of the US message discouraging migrants, Castillo said he would not change his mind.

“Because to return to Cuba is to die,” he said.

US customs and border protection have closed the only border crossing between Del Rio and Ciudad Acuna. Travelers were directed indefinitely to a passage at Eagle Pass, about 55 miles away.

The agency transferred Haitians in buses and vans to other border patrol facilities in Texas, particularly in 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.

Nicole Phillips, legal director of the Haitian Bridge Alliance advocacy group, said the United States 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 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 ”.

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