Thousands of primarily Haitian migrants remained camped under a bridge in southern Texas on Saturday, as hundreds more headed toward the border, a day after U.S. authorities moved some 2,000 of them to immigration processing stations.
The Department of Homeland Security said on Saturday that U.S. Customs and Border Protection would send 400 additional agents to the area by Monday morning to help speed the removal of migrants who have overwhelmed border officials in the town of Del Rio, Tex.
Such transfers will continue “in order to ensure that irregular migrants are swiftly taken into custody, processed, and removed from the United States consistent with our laws and policy,” DHS said in a statement.
While some migrants seeking jobs and safety have been making their way to the United States for weeks or months, it is only in recent days that the number converging on Del Rio, Tex., has drawn widespread attention, posing a humanitarian and political challenge for the Biden administration.
Scores of people waded back and forth across the Rio Grande on Saturday, re-entering Mexico to purchase water, food and diapers in Ciudad Acuna before returning to the Texas encampment under and near a bridge in the border city of Del Rio, Tex. (Jordan Vonderhaar/Getty Images)
The city of about 35,000 people, roughly 230 kilometres west of San Antonio, sits on a relatively remote stretch of border that lacks the capacity to hold and process such large numbers of people.
DHS said that in response to the migrants wading into the Rio Grande and then sheltering in increasingly poor conditions under the Del Rio International Bridge that connects the Texas city with Ciudad Acuna in Mexico, it was accelerating flights to Haiti and other destinations within the next 72 hours.
Haitian migrants use a dam to cross into the United States from Mexico on Saturday, in Del Rio, Tex. (Eric Gay/The Associated Press)
DHS added it was working with nations where the migrants began their journeys — for many of the Haitians, countries such as Brazil and Chile — to accept returned migrants. Officials on both sides of the border said most of the migrants were Haitians.
Haitian Prime Minister Ariel Henry expressed solidarity with the mass of migrants at the border in a series of posts on social media late on Saturday, saying “arrangements have already been made” to warmly receive those who return to the Caribbean nation.
WATCH | Thousands of migrants converge on Texas border town: Thousands of migrants converge on Texas border townA sudden, huge surge of migrants gathered near a bridge at the Texas border community of Del Rio as authorities struggled to cope with processing the arrivals. (Go Nakamura/Reuters) 0:56
“I share their suffering and say to them welcome home,” he wrote.
U.S. Customs and Border Protection on Friday said that due to the influx it was temporarily closing Del Rio’s port of entry and re-routing traffic to Eagle Pass, 92 kilometres to the east.
“We have reiterated that our borders are not open, and people should not make the dangerous journey,” a DHS spokesperson told Reuters.
Del Rio’s mayor, Bruno Lozano, said in a video on Saturday night that there were now just over 14,000 migrants under the bridge.
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