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London, UK Posted 2 years, 6 months ago

Haitian Migrants Intend to Remain at Texas Border Despite Plan to Expel Them

Thousands seeking to escape poverty and hunger in their own country remain encamped under and near a bridge in Del Rio

Haitian migrants seeking to escape poverty and hunger in their home country said they would not be deterred by US plans to swiftly send them back, as thousands remained encamped under and near a bridge in Del Rio, a remote Texas city.

On Sunday, the US began expulsion flights. An official said three flights left San Antonio for Port-au-Prince. The US also blocked the border at Del Rio.

About a dozen Texas state vehicles lined up near the bridge and river where Haitians have been crossing from Ciudad Acuna, in Mexico, for almost three weeks. Yellow police tape was used to block a small dam which has been used to walk into the US.

A Mexican police officer said migrants would not be allowed to cross. An Associated Press reporter saw Haitian migrants crossing nearby regardless but they were soon stopped by US Border Patrol agents on horseback and Texas law enforcement agents.

Some Haitians carried boxes of food on their heads. Agents yelled at those in the waist-deep river to get out of the water. Several hundred who had crossed and were sitting along the river bank on the US side were ordered to the Del Rio camp.

“Go now,” agents yelled. Mexican authorities in an airboat told others to go back.

One migrant, Charlie Jean, had crossed back into Ciudad Acuna to get food for his wife and three daughters, aged two, five and 12. He was waiting 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 said he had been living in Chile for five years before trekking north. It was unknown if he made it back to the camp.

Mexico said it would also begin deporting Haitians to their homeland. A government official said flights would be from towns near the US border and the border with Guatemala, where the largest group of Haitians remains. Many of the migrants have lived in Latin America for years but are seeking asylum in the US as economic opportunities dry up.

The number of US flights carrying migrants back to Haiti is expected to reach at least six a day, a federal official said. A large number of buses arrived on Sunday in Del Rio. The official said “many, many more” were coming to transfer Haitians to expulsion flights, immigration detention centers and border patrol facilities. Departure cities for Haiti-bound flights were being “actively planned”, the official said.

At the Port-au-Prince airport on Sunday about a dozen officials from Haitian government agencies gathered. Public security officials requested the presence of police. A minibus from the International Organization of Migration also was posted at the airport. It was filled with bags containing toiletries, hand sanitizer and hair ties.

The Haitian prime minister, Ariel Henry, said he was concerned about conditions at the border camp and that the migrants would be welcomed back.

“We want to reassure them that measures have already been taken to give them a better welcome upon their return to the country and that they will not be left behind,” he said.

Henry did not provide details. A Haitian government spokesman could not be immediately reached for comment. Another Haitian political leader questioned whether the nation could handle an influx of returning migrants.

“We have the situation in the south with the earthquake. The economy is a disaster, [and] there are no jobs,” said the election minister, Mathias Pierre, adding that most Haitians can’t satisfy basic needs. “The prime minister should negotiate with the US government to stop those deportations in this moment of crises.”

In Del Rio on Saturday, scores of people waded back and forth across the Rio Grande, re-entering Mexico to purchase water, food and diapers. Crowd estimates varied but the Del Rio mayor, Bruno Lozano, said on Saturday evening there were 14,534 migrants at the camp. Many pitched tents and built makeshift shelters from giant reeds known as carrizo cane. Others bathed and washed clothing in the river.

It is unclear how such a large number amassed so quickly. The number of Haitian arrivals began to reach unsustainable levels for US officials in Del Rio about two weeks ago, prompting the acting border patrol sector chief, Robert Garcia, to ask for help, according to a US official.

Junior Jean, 32 and from Haiti, watched as people carried cases of water or bags of food through the knee-high river. He said he lived on the streets in Chile for four years, searching for food in garbage cans.

“We are all looking for a better life,” he said.


Read the full article at: theguardian

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