An impromptu border camp that roiled U.S. politics was emptied of thousands of Haitian migrants by Friday (September 24), with most remaining in the United States for now and others expelled on deportation flights or returned to Mexico.
Reuters witnesses said the shanty town-like jumble of makeshift shelters and tents had all but disappeared from Del Rio, Texas, with workers clearing the last debris from the banks of the Rio Grande bordering Mexico. Texas State Troopers lined the river bank to discourage new crossings.
U.S. Department of Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas said nearly 30,000 migrants had been encountered in Del Rio in the past two weeks.
More than 12,000 will have a chance to make their case for protection before a U.S. immigration judge, an estimated 8,000 voluntarily returned to Mexico, and 2,000 were expelled to Haiti. The fate of others detained is to be decided.
Seeking to balance outrage about treatment of the migrants at the weekend by some border guards on horseback, Del Rio Mayor Bruno Lozano praised the agents for trying to provide food and medical care in tough circumstances.
“To have no fatalities when we had 15,000 people is a phenomenon, I am just very grateful,” Lozano said, citing the camp population at its highest.
Mayorkas vowed a swift investigation of an incident in which the mounted guards used reins like whips.
As well as the Biden administration’s contentious use of expulsion flights back to instability in Haiti, Mexico has sought to bus and fly Haitians to its southern states, far from the U.S. border.
On Friday, Reuters reported that the International Organization for Migration (IOM) had formally asked Brazil to receive some of the Haitians from the camp, according to two sources with knowledge of the request.
Official data show Haitians are far less likely to have asylum claims approved in Mexico compared with many nationalities.
Last year, of all asylum claims that were formally resolved, only 22% of Haitian cases won approval, compared with 98% for Venezuelans, 85% of Hondurans, 83% of Salvadorans and 44% of Cubans. So far this year, the Haitian number is up to 31%.
(Production: Adrees Latif, Marco Belo, Kevin Fogarty, Kristin Neubauer)