The Texas border crossing where thousands of Haitian immigrants converged in recent weeks will partially reopen Saturday afternoon, US Customs and Border Protection said.
Federal and local officials said there were no migrants left in the makeshift camp as of Friday, after some of the nearly 15,000 people were expelled from the country and many others were allowed to remain in the United States, at least temporarily, while they tried to seek asylum.
In a statement, officials said business and travel operations would resume at the Del Rio port of entry for passenger traffic at 4 p.m. Saturday. It will be reopened to cargo traffic on Monday morning. CBP temporarily closed the border crossing between Del Río and Ciudad Acuña, Mexico, on September 17 after migrants suddenly crossed into Del Río and camped around the US side of the border bridge.
CBP agents searched the brush along the Rio Grande on Saturday to make sure no one was hiding near the site. Bruno Lozano, the mayor of Del Rio, said officials also wanted to ensure that no other large group of migrants made their way to the Del Rio area to try to set up a similar camp.
The Department of Homeland Security planned to continue flights to Haiti over the weekend, ignoring criticism from Democratic lawmakers and human rights groups who say Haitian migrants are being sent back to a troubled country that some have left. more than a decade ago.
The number of people in the Del Rio camp peaked last Saturday as migrants driven by confusion over the Biden administration’s policies and misinformation on social media converged at the border crossing.
The United States and Mexico worked quickly, seeming eager to end the humanitarian situation that prompted the resignation of the U.S. special envoy to Haiti and widespread outrage after images emerged of border agents maneuvering their horses to block and transfer the migrants. by force.
Many migrants face removal because they are not covered by the protections recently extended by the Biden administration to the more than 100,000 Haitian migrants already in the United States, citing security concerns and social unrest in the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere. A devastating 2010 earthquake forced many to leave their homeland.
Department of Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas said on Friday that some 2,000 Haitians had been swiftly expelled on 17 flights since Sunday and more could be expelled in the coming days under pandemic powers that deny people. the opportunity to apply for asylum.
The Trump administration enacted the policy, called Title 42, in March 2020 to justify restrictive immigration policies in an effort to prevent the spread of the coronavirus. The Biden administration has used it to justify the deportation of Haitian migrants.
A federal judge late last week ruled the rule incorrect and gave the government two weeks to stop it, but the Biden administration appealed.
Officials said the US State Department is in talks with Brazil and Chile to allow the return of some Haitians who previously resided in those countries, but it is complicated because some of them no longer have legal status there.
Mayorkas said the United States has allowed some 12,400 migrants to enter the country, at least temporarily, while they claim before an immigration judge to stay in the country under asylum laws or for some other legal reason. Ultimately, they could be denied and be subject to removal.
Mayorkas said that around 5,000 are in DHS custody and are being processed to determine whether they will be expelled or allowed to submit their legal residency claim. Some returned to Mexico.
A US official with direct knowledge of the situation said seven flights were scheduled to Haiti on Saturday and six on Sunday, although that was subject to change. The official was not authorized to speak in public.
No migrant was left Saturday morning at the camp on the Mexican side of the border. Local authorities had moved the last migrants to a walled, roofless facility in downtown Ciudad Acuña, where the Mexican immigration agency set up some tents.
That shelter had 240 people as of Saturday morning, according to Felipe Basulto, secretary of the municipality. The Mexican government has been moving migrants by land and air to the south of the country and plans to start flying some to Haiti in the coming days.
The Mexico office of the UN International Organization for Migration issued a statement late Friday saying it is looking for countries where some Haitians have residency or where their children have citizenship as an alternative to allowing them to be deported to Haiti.
Luxon, a 31-year-old migrant from Haiti who hid his last name out of fear, said he was going with his wife and son to Mexicali, about 900 miles (1,450 kilometers) west along the Mexico-California border.
“The option was to go to a place where there are not many people and there ask for documents to be legal in Mexico,” he said.
At the Val Verde Border Humanitarian Coalition in Del Rio, migrants got out of a white Border Patrol van on Friday, many smiling and looking relieved to have been released into the United States. Some carried sleeping babies. A small boy walked behind his mother wrapped in a silver thermal blanket.
A man who drove nearly 1,300 miles (2,092 kilometers) from Toledo, Ohio, hoping to pick up a friend and family, scanned the line of Haitian migrants but did not see them.