The United States is flying Haitians who entered the country without permission back to their homeland. The Haitians have set up a camp in a Texas town near the U.S. border. The operation appears to be the beginning of what could be the country’s largest expulsion of migrants or refugees in many years.
U.S. officials are seeking to expel many of the more than 12,000 migrants who have camped around a bridge in Del Rio, Texas. They entered the United States after crossing the Rio Grande River from Ciudad Acuña, Mexico.
More than 320 migrants arrived in Port-au-Prince, Haiti’s capital, on three flights on Sunday. Haiti said six flights were expected Tuesday. The U.S. plans to begin seven expulsion flights each day on Wednesday, said a U.S. official who was not permitted to discuss the situation publicly. Flights will continue to depart from San Antonio. Officials may add El Paso, the official said.
Large numbers of Mexicans have also been sent home during years of high migration, but they were sent over land and not so quickly.
When the border was closed Sunday, the migrants found other ways to cross nearby until they were met by federal and state law enforcement. An Associated Press reporter saw Haitian migrants still crossing the river into the U.S. about 2.4 kilometers east of the earlier place. After a time, they were stopped by Border Patrol agents riding horses and Texas law enforcement officials.
Agents shouted at the migrants who were crossing the river to get out of the water. The several hundred who had successfully crossed sat on the U.S. side of the river. They were ordered to the camp in Del Rio. Mexican officials in a boat told others trying to cross to go back into Mexico.
Migrant Charlie Jean had crossed back into Mexico from the camps to get food for his wife and children.
“We need food for every day. I can go without, but my kids can’t,” said Jean. He had been living in Chile for five years before beginning the trip north to the U.S. It was unknown if he made it back across and to the camp.
Mexico said Sunday it would also begin returning Haitians to their homeland. A government official said the flights would be from towns near the U.S. border and the border with Guatemala, where the largest group remains.
Some of the migrants at the Del Rio camp said the killing of President Jovenel Moïse make them afraid to return to the country.
“In Haiti, there is no security,” said Fabricio Jean, a 38-year-old Haitian who arrived in Texas with his wife and two daughters.
Since Friday, 3,300 migrants have already been removed from the Del Rio camp. They have been taken to airplanes or detention centers, Border Patrol Chief Raul L. Ortiz said Sunday. He expected to have 3,000 of the nearly 12,600 remaining migrants removed within a day, and aimed for the rest to be gone within the week.
Ortiz said the Border Patrol was working “around the clock.” He added that the service would “remove individuals from the United States consistent with our laws and our policies.” He spoke at a press conference at the Del Rio bridge.
The fast expulsion of the Haitians is being carried out under rules related to the coronavirus health crisis. They were put in place during the administration of former President Donald Trump in March 2020. The rules permit immigrants entering the country without permission to be quickly removed from the U.S. without a chance to ask for asylum. President Joe Biden let the order stand, except for children found alone.
In Haiti, those arriving on the first flight lined up to receive food as they wondered where they would sleep that night.
All were given $100 and tested for COVID-19, although officials were not planning to put them into quarantine, said an official with the Office of National Migration.
Some migrants said they were planning to leave Haiti again as soon as possible. Twenty-nine-year-old Valeria Ternission said she and her husband want to travel with their four-year-old son back to Chile, where she had a job.
“I am truly worried, especially for the child,” she said. “I can’t do anything here.”
I'm Jonathan Evans.
Juan Lozano, Eric Gay and Elliot Spagat reported this story for The Associated Press. Susan Shand adapted it for Learning English. Mario Ritter, Jr. was the editor.
Words in This Story
migrant –n. a person who goes from one place to another especially to find work
quarantine – n. the period of time during which a person or animal that has a disease or that might have a disease is kept away from others to prevent the disease from spreading
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