Tucked away in a pocket of shade on the forecourt of a vast petrol station in Del Rio, Texas, Giny Charles looked relieved as her husband Jeff handed her a bottle of ice cold water.
The 24-year-old Haitian, wearing ripped jeans, flip flops and a loose pink vest draped over her heavily pregnant belly, was one of thousands of migrants who waded across the Rio Grande last week, before spending three nights in a squalid makeshift camp underneath a bridge.
In less than a fortnight, this rural town of 35,000 people has seen as many as 16,000 people cross the river which separates the US and Mexico, sparking a fresh humanitarian crisis on the southern border which has caught officials off guard.
“It was a journey from hell, but I thank God we made it,” she told The Telegraph, sitting down on the pavement, both hands on her stomach.
The couple moved from Haiti to Brazil five years ago, with their homeland mired in political instability and still reeling from the devastating 2010 earthquake which killed 200,000 people.
“I became an Uber driver, and work was good,” said Jeff, 33, clutching a small sports bag containing their few possessions.
“But when the pandemic started there was no work and no money. I had to find a way to keep my family alive.
“I was told that if we reached the US border, we would be taken in. So we started travelling.”
With more than 200,000 arrivals last month alone, word of a sympathetic border policy spread fast in Facebook and Whatsapp groups among the Haitian population in Brazil, and many others started travelling too.
Brazil, Colombia, Panama, Costa Rica, Nicaragua, Honduras, Guatemala, Mexico. All traversed in the space of four weeks, at a cost of $3,000 each.
“We saw many things,” said Jeff, who explained that he and his wife were held up by cartel gunmen in the Darien Gap and forced to pay them $100 to pass.
“I really thought we wouldn't make it,” he added, before mentioning the snakes, spiders and scorpions they also encountered along the way.
But last week they did make it, and with Jeff’s cousins living in Florida, the couple was allowed to enter the United States while their asylum claim is heard.
When a silver and blue Greyhound bus came into view - destination San Antonio - Giny’s eyes lit up. Around 40 people, including eight expectant mothers and five babies, got on board. They are the lucky ones.
Thousands of others will be turned away and sent back to a country they haven't stepped foot in for years.
Under intense pressure from local officials, including Texas Governor Greg Abbott, who said that Joe Biden is handling the border crisis “as badly as the evacuation from Afghanistan,” the government has increased the number of deportation flights to Haiti and is using a sweeping public health order to speed up the evictions.
More than 320 migrants were flown to Port-au-Prince on three flights on Sunday, while six more planes are expected to depart in the coming days.
US Border Patrol chief Raul Oritz, a Del Rio native, said that 3,000 people had already been moved on from the camp and that "over the next six to seven days our goal is to process the 12,662 migrants that we have underneath that bridge”.
As well as shutting the bridge to legitimate cross-border traffic, officials on both sides of the mighty waterway have now sealed off the illegal crossing point, with US police officers on horseback seen chasing people along the riverbank.
Many migrants camped on the US side had been going back to Mexico to pick up supplies, but they have been told to remain in place.
"We're trapped," said Joncito Jean, 37, who had spent three days sleeping on a sheet on the ground with his wife and children, aged three and four. He said he regretted the decision to come.
"There are no humane conditions. We have to break out to buy water."
The army has been drafted in to seal off the area, and soldiers with M4 Carbines are now guarding the main entrance beside a sandy-coloured Humvee.
The situation has quickly gained national attention and Homeland Security Chief Alejandro Mayorkas will travel to the area in the coming days.
On Sunday, former President Donald Trump issued a statement claiming that America is “rapidly becoming a cesspool of humanity.”
“The largest number of illegal aliens in the history of our country are pouring in by the millions,” he said, singling out “tens of thousands of people from Haiti.”
At the petrol station, which has become a sort of Tower of Babel with migrants speaking Creole, French, Spanish, Portuguese and occasionally English, a cashier called Horacio gave a more modest view.
“I respect their wish to come here, but the town has been turned upside down. I have never seen so many border patrol people in my life. I don’t want us to become a new hub for this activity.”
Mr Biden is also facing resistance from his own party over this evolving crisis.
More than 50 Democrat lawmakers wrote to the departments of Homeland Security and Health and Human Services to urge them to stop deportations to Haiti, where there is huge instability following the assassination of president Jovonel Moise in July and another deadly earthquake in August, which killed 2,000 people.
“The Haitian government’s ability to safely receive its citizens will take months, if not years, to secure,” the letter said.
Democratic congresswoman Ilhan Omar also wrote on Twitter: "This is completely inhumane, Haitians are experiencing crisis after crisis and deserve compassion.
"Instead of stepping up deportation, we should be halting it. It’s shameful that from administration to administration our cruel immigration policies remain."
Joining Giny and Jeff on the bus to San Antonio was Melissa, her husband Michelet and their three children, aged 12, five and three months.
Miguel, the 12-year-old, said he couldn’t wait for a new life in America.
“I want to go to school, make friends and become a mechanical engineer," he said, between spoonfuls of yogurt.
“I want to be happy, and I am now.”