The United States has begun flying Haitians encamped in a Texas border town to their homeland and blocking other people from passing through Mexico, at the beginning of what could be one of America’s largest and fastest expulsions of migrants or refugees in decades.
More than 320 migrants arrived in Port-au-Prince on Sunday on three flights. Haiti said six flights were expected on Tuesday. U.S. authorities were moving to expel many of the more than 12,000 migrants who camped around a bridge in Del Rio, Texas, after crossing from Ciudad Acuña, Mexico.
Some people arriving on the first flight to Haiti covered their heads as they walked toward a large bus parked next to the plane. Dozens lined up to receive a plate of rice, beans, chicken and bananas.
They were all given $ 100 and tested for Covid-19, although authorities had no plans to quarantine them, Marie-Lourde Jean-Charles told the Haitian Office for National Migration.
Gary Monplaisir, 26, said his parents and sister lived in Port-au-Prince, but to get home, he, his wife and five-year-old daughter would have to cross a controlled area. by bands called Martissant, where the killings are routine.
“I’m scared,” he said. “I have no plan.”
He said he moved to Chile in 2017, when he was about to get an accounting degree, to work as a tow truck driver. He paid for his wife and daughter to join him. They tried to get to the United States because they thought they could get a better job and help their family in Haiti.
“We’re always looking for better opportunities,” he said.
Some said they planned to leave Haiti again as soon as possible. Valeria Ternission, 29, said she and her husband want to travel with their four-year-old son to Chile, where she worked as a bakery cashier.
“I’m really worried, especially about the kid,” she said. “There’s nothing I can do here.”
The United States plans to begin seven expulsion flights daily on Wednesday, four in Port-au-Prince and three in Cap-Haïtien, according to a U.S. official. The flights will leave San Antonio, but authorities may add El Paso, a federal official said.
The only obvious parallel to this asylum-free expulsion was in 1992, when the U.S. Coast Guard intercepted Haitian refugees at sea, said Yael Schacher, chief U.S. advocate for Refugees International.
Similarly, a large number of Mexicans have been sent home during the early years of immigration, but by land and not suddenly.
Central Americans have also crossed the border in comparable numbers without being massively expelled, although Mexico has agreed to accept them from the U.S. under pandemic-related authority since March 2020. Mexico does not accept expelled Haitians.
When the border was closed on Sunday, migrants initially found other ways to cross until they clashed with law enforcement. An Associated Press reporter saw Haitian immigrants crossing the river into the United States east of the previous site, but they were arrested.
Mexico said Sunday it would also begin deporting Haitians. A government official said the flights would come from cities near the U.S. border and on the border with Guatemala, where the largest group remains.
Haitians have been migrating to the United States in large numbers from South America for several years. Many make the dangerous walk, bus and car ride, even through the famous Darien Gap, a Panamanian jungle.
Some of the immigrants from the Del Rio camp said the recent devastating earthquake in Haiti and the assassination of President Jovenel Moïse scared them back.
Since Friday, 3,300 migrants have been transferred from Del Rio to planes or detention centers, U.S. Border Patrol Chief Raul Ortiz said Sunday. He hoped to move 3,000 of the remaining 12,600 migrants in one day, and aimed for the rest to go within a week.
“We are working 24 hours a day to move migrants quickly out of the heat, the elements and from under this bridge to our processing facilities to quickly process and eliminate people from the United States agree with our laws and our policies, ”Ortiz said.
The rapid expulsions were made possible by a pandemic-related authority adopted by former President Donald Trump, which allowed the immediate removal of immigrants without the opportunity to seek asylum. The Biden administration exempted the unaccompanied children, but allowed the order to be upheld.
Haitians who are not deported are subject to immigration laws, which include asylum application rights and other humanitarian protections. Families are quickly released in the United States because the government does not usually have children.