US withdraws migrants from Texas border camp, begins flights to Haiti

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DEL RIO, TX / CIUDAD ACUÑA, Mexico, Sept. 19 (Reuters) – U.S. border officials have started to deport planes loaded mostly with Haitian migrants from a large makeshift camp they set up after crossing the Rio Grande separating Mexico from the United States, with repatriation flights arriving in Haiti on Sunday.

The sprawling camp under the international bridge attracted more than 12,000 migrants at one point and marked a new challenge for US authorities, who have sought to reduce the flow of Central Americans and now hundreds of Haitians who have fled poverty rampant, gang violence and seemingly un-stopping natural disasters at home.

US authorities have moved 3,300 migrants since Friday from Del Rio, Texas, and announced a new daily schedule of flights to the Haitian capital, Port-au-Prince, where some officials on Sunday expressed concern over a potentially influx. large number of returning migrants to the country. the next days.

US Border Patrol chief Raul Ortiz told a press conference in Del Rio, Texas, that over the next week the government aims to “swiftly” process 12,662 migrants under the bridge that connects Del Rio in Ciudad Acuña, Mexico.

“There is no security in Haiti and there is no work,” said Rolin Petit Homme, a 35-year-old Haitian who had camped under the bridge but says he will now try to win. his life in Mexico rather than returning home. .

Later Sunday, the first three flights arrived in Haiti carrying 327 return migrants, according to a US official. Upon arrival, some said they had never been informed of where they were being taken. Read more

The migrants continued to cross the river over the weekend despite increased security on the US side which included officers on horseback, one of whom loaded his horse to block the migrants and swung what looked like a lariat to a person trying to climb the American water embankment. Read more

At least 100 Haitians, including families with young children, returned to Mexico from the bridge on Sunday evening, grabbing a yellow rope stretched across the river that had risen to chest level.

Many were carrying backpacks and plastic bags containing their belongings, and several people told Reuters they plan to stay in Mexico for now because they did not want to be returned to Haiti.

FLIGHTS TO HAITITI

Officials on both sides of the border said most of the migrants came from Haiti, the poorest country in the Americas and hit hard by disasters in recent years, including a major earthquake last month.

Many Haitians told Reuters they had been to South America, including Brazil and Chile, before deciding to head north because they couldn’t gain legal status or were fighting racism. and securing jobs.

A US Coast Guard plane with migrants on board leaves Del Rio International Airport as US authorities speed up the deportation of migrants at the border with Mexico in Del Rio, Texas, United States, 19 September 2021. REUTERS / Marco Bello

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A bus escorted by U.S. border officials entered Del Rio airport earlier on Sunday, and a group could be seen boarding a Coast Guard plane. A police source said the people were migrants and a source close to airport operations said the plane was heading for El Paso, Texas.

Alejandro Mayorkas, head of the US Department of Homeland Security (DHS), told reporters on Sunday that flights to Haiti had started earlier today and would continue on a daily basis.

DHS had previously said it was speeding up repatriations to Haiti and sending more border officials to Del Rey, where conditions under the bridge became increasingly squalid.

‘NO CHOICE’

But in his brief remarks, Mayorkas stressed that the Haitian government had “communicated quite clearly to us its ability to receive the flights” and said the US government is providing funds to Haiti to help. He did not specify the amount.

On Saturday, Haitian Prime Minister Ariel Henry said “arrangements have already been made” to receive those returned to the Caribbean nation. Read more

“We have no choice at this stage but to increase repatriation flights,” Mayorkas said, adding that the flights would take migrants either to Haiti or “possibly other countries”.

A Haitian immigration official, who was not authorized to speak to the media, said the country was unprepared for an influx of thousands of returning migrants.

A broad US public health order known as Title 42, issued under the Trump administration at the start of the pandemic, allows most migrants to be promptly deported without the ability to seek asylum.

President Joe Biden has kept this rule in place, although he has exempted unaccompanied minors and his administration has not expelled most families. Biden had promised a more humane approach to immigration than that of his predecessor.

A U.S. judge ruled last week that the policy could not be applied to families, but the ruling won’t take effect for two weeks and the Biden administration has appealed.

As a rule, migrants can come to the border and apply for asylum, which triggers a lengthy legal process. But the Trump administration cut protections, arguing that many asylum seekers were ineligible.

Reporting by Daina Solomon in Ciudad Acuña and Alexandra Ulmer in Del Rio; Additional reporting by David Alire Garcia, Maria Caspani, Kristina Cooke, Mica Rosenberg and Gessika Thomas; Editing by Donna Bryson, Daniel Wallis, Peter Cooney and Raju Gopalakrishnan

Our Standards: Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.


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