US Launches Expulsion of Haitians in TX09/20 06:13
DEL RIO, Texas (AP) -- The U.S. is flying Haitians camped in a Texas border
town back to their homeland and blocking others from crossing the border from
Mexico in a massive show of force that signals the beginning of what could be
one of America's swiftest, large-scale expulsions of migrants or refugees in
More than 320 migrants arrived in Port-au-Prince on three flights Sunday,
and Haiti said six flights were expected Tuesday. In all, U.S. authorities
moved to expel many of the more 12,000 migrants camped around a bridge in Del
Rio, Texas, after crossing from Ciudad Acua, Mexico.
The U.S. plans to begin seven expulsion flights daily on Wednesday, four to
Port-au-Prince and three to Cap-Haitien, according to a U.S. official who was
not authorized to discuss the matter publicly. Flights will continue to depart
from San Antonio but authorities may add El Paso, the official said.
The only obvious parallel for such an expulsion without an opportunity to
seek asylum was in 1992 when the Coast Guard intercepted Haitian refugees at
sea, said Yael Schacher, senior U.S. advocate at Refugees International whose
doctoral studies focused on the history of U.S. asylum law.
Similarly large numbers of Mexicans have been sent home during peak years of
immigration but over land and not so suddenly.
Central Americans have also crossed the border in comparable numbers without
being subject to mass expulsion, although Mexico has agreed to accept them from
the U.S. under pandemic-related authority in effect since March 2020. Mexico
does not accept expelled Haitians or people of other nationalities outside of
Mexico, Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador.
When the border was closed Sunday, the migrants initially found other ways
to cross nearby until they were confronted by federal and state law
enforcement. An Associated Press reporter saw Haitian immigrants still crossing
the river into the U.S. about 1.5 miles (2.4 kilometers) east of the previous
spot, but they were eventually stopped by Border Patrol agents on horseback and
Texas law enforcement officials.
As they crossed, some Haitians carried boxes on their heads filled with
food. Some removed their pants before getting into the river and carried them.
Others were unconcerned about getting wet.
Agents yelled at the migrants who were crossing in the waist-deep river to
get out of the water. The several hundred who had successfully crossed and were
sitting along the river bank on the U.S. side were ordered to the Del Rio camp.
"Go now," agents yelled. Mexican authorities in an airboat told others trying
to cross to go back into Mexico.
Migrant Charlie Jean had crossed back into Ciudad Acua from the camps to
get food for his wife and three daughters, ages 2, 5 and 12. He was waiting on
the Mexican side for a restaurant to bring him an order of rice.
"We need food for every day. I can go without, but my kids can't," said
Jean, who had been living in Chile for five years before beginning the trek
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 deporting 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.
Haitians have been migrating to the U.S. in large numbers from South America
for several years, many having left their Caribbean nation after a devastating
2010 earthquake. After jobs dried up from the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio de
Janeiro, many made the dangerous trek by foot, bus and car to the U.S. border,
including through the infamous Darien Gap, a Panamanian jungle.
Some of the migrants at the Del Rio camp said the recent devastating
earthquake in Haiti and the assassination of President Jovenel Mose make them
afraid to return to a country that seems more unstable than when they left.
"In Haiti, there is no security," said Fabricio Jean, a 38-year-old Haitian
who arrived in Texas with his wife and two daughters. "The country is in a
Since Friday, 3,300 migrants have already been removed from the Del Rio camp
to planes or detention centers, Border Patrol Chief Raul L. Ortiz said Sunday.
He expected to have 3,000 of the approximately 12,600 remaining migrants moved
within a day, and aimed for the rest to be gone within the week.
"We are working around the clock to expeditiously move migrants out of the
heat, elements and from underneath this bridge to our processing facilities in
order to quickly process and remove individuals from the United States
consistent with our laws and our policies," Ortiz said at news conference at
the Del Rio bridge. The Texas city of about 35,000 people sits roughly 145
miles (230 kilometers) west of San Antonio.
Six flights were scheduled in Haiti on Tuesday -- three in Port-au-Prince
and three in the northern city of Cap-Haitien, said Jean Ngot Bonheur Delva,
Haiti's migration director.
The rapid expulsions were made possible by a pandemic-related authority
adopted by former President Donald Trump in March 2020 that allows for migrants
to be immediately removed from the country without an opportunity to seek
asylum. President Joe Biden exempted unaccompanied children from the order but
let the rest stand.
Any Haitians not expelled are subject to immigration laws, which include
rights to seek asylum and other forms of humanitarian protection. Families are
quickly released in the U.S. because the government cannot generally hold
Some people arriving on the first flight covered their heads as they walked
into a large bus parked next to the plane. Dozens lined up to receive a plate
of rice, beans, chicken and plantains as they wondered where they would sleep
and how they would make money to support their families.
All were given $100 and tested for COVID-19, though authorities were not
planning to put them into quarantine, said Marie-Lourde Jean-Charles with the
Office of National Migration.
Gary Monplaisir, 26, said his parents and sister live in Port-au-Prince, but
he wasn't sure if he would stay with them because to reach their house he, his
wife and their 5-year-old daughter would cross a gang-controlled area called
Martissant where killings are routine.
"I'm scared," he said. "I don't have a plan."
He moved to Chile in 2017, just as he was about to earn an accounting
degree, to work as a tow truck driver. He later paid for his wife and daughter
to join him. They tried to reach the U.S. because he thought he could get a
better-paying job and help his family in Haiti.
"We're always looking for better opportunities," he said.
Some migrants said they were planning to leave Haiti again as soon as
possible. Valeria Ternission, 29, said she and her husband want to travel with
their 4-year-old son back to Chile, where she worked as a bakery's cashier.
"I am truly worried, especially for the child," she said. "I can't do