By Alex Segura Lozano
Del Rio, Texas, Sep 18 (EFE).- President Joe Biden’s administration announced Saturday a plan to speed up the deportation of thousands of Haitians who waded across the Rio Grande River to reach the United States and remain camped out in this Texas town as they wait for authorities to rule on their asylum applications.
An estimated 13,000 migrants, most of them Haitians, continue to swelter in the late-summer heat under a bridge in Del Rio, which is home to around 35,000 people.
US authorities will “secure additional transportation to accelerate the pace and increase the capacity of removal flights to Haiti and other destinations in the hemisphere within the next 72 hours, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) said Saturday.
For the Haitians in Del Rio, the statement was “like a slap in the face,” a volunteer with the Val Verde Border Humanitarian Coalition told Efe on condition of anonymity as she helped migrants board outbound buses.
“We are in utter disbelief that the Biden Administration would deport Haitians now,” Guerline Jozef, executive director of the Haitian Bridge Alliance, said.
“Hours after the 7.2 magnitude earthquake (on Aug. 14), President Joe Biden released a statement saying that the United States was a ‘friend’ of Haiti. A friend does not continuously inflict pain on another friend,” she said.
A former resident of the bridge encampment, Clement Paris, told Efe he hoped that God would help his Haitian compatriots avoid deportation.
“The government there (Haiti) doesn’t want to work or want to help us. All the money goes into their pockets,” he said while waiting for a bus to take him to San Antonio, the second-most-populous city in Texas and seventh-largest nationwide.
Last month’s earthquake, which left more than 2,200 people dead – according to figures that have not been updated for weeks – and tens of thousands homeless, added stress to what was already a difficult situation following the July 7 assassination of Haitian President Jovenel Moise.
On taking office in January, Biden suspended predecessor Donald Trump’s “Remain in Mexico” policy, under which third-country nationals applying for asylum were required to await processing south of the border.
Though US courts have subsequently ordered the Biden administration to reinstate the program, news of the suspension spurred record numbers of migrants to make the dangerous journey across Mexico in pursuit of the “American Dream.”
In July, US authorities detained 212,672 undocumented migrants at the southern border, the highest one-month total in 20 years.
The Mexican government has yet to agree to a resumption of Remain in Mexico, yet authorities south of the border remain willing – in principle, if not always in practice – to accept Guatemalan, Honduran and Salvadoran migrants expelled from the US.
But Mexico refuses to take charge of third-country nationals from outside Central America.
DHS said Saturday that an additional 400 Border Patrol agents and immigration officials will be deployed to Del Rio in the next 48 hours to manage the situation.
In another step to alleviate the pressure, migrants will be transported from Del Rio to other processing locations.
The Del Rio Port of Entry has been shut down temporarily and cross-border traffic is being re-routed to Eagle Pass, Texas, about 57 mi (100 km) east of Del Rio. EFE