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Fox News drone banned from filming immigrants under Texas bridge after mass border crossing by thousands of Haitians

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A drone operated by Fox News has been banned from flying over the International Bridge in Texas after thousands of migrants, mostly Haitian, assembled underneath the structure in recent days.

Fox News reporter Bill Melugin broke the news to Tucker Carlson on Thursday night, hours after the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) brought in a two-week flight restriction over Del Rio, Texas.

It means that the network can no longer show viewers footage from a drone that it has flown over the International Bridge between Del Rio and Ciudad Acuña, Mexico, for nearly seven months.

“We’ve been using our drone to show everybody these remarkable pictures,” Melugin told Carlson, “[but] we just learned that the FAA has put out a temporary flight restriction, a TFR, in the area immediately around the port of entry where that bridge is.

“All of a sudden, in the last 24 hours, we start showing these images at this bridge and a TFR goes up, we can no longer fly”.

Carlson responded by saying it was news to him, and that he “sincerely hope[s] our company will ignore the FAA. They have no right to shut down news gathering. They don’t own the news”.

According to the FAA, the restriction on flying was because of “special security reasons”, and no further information has been released on the matter.

It follows rising numbers of migrants at the border in recent days, where temperatures are around 99 Fahrenheit (37 Celsius) during the day. Food and water is also thought to be in limited supply, and border holding facilities are full.

Among those assembling underneath the International Bridge are Cubans, Venezuelans and Nicaraguans, although most are from Haiti – a country that has suffered from a 7.2-magnitude earthquake and political uncertainty following the assassination of its president, Jovenel Moïse, since July.

Damage in Marceline, Haiti, near to the epicentre of August’s earthquake. (Tom Cotter for Project HOPE, 2021.)
Damage in Marceline, Haiti, near to the epicentre of August’s earthquake. (Tom Cotter for Project HOPE, 2021.)

More than 130,000 are currently homeless in Haiti, and 119,000 people are without clean drinking water, causing charities to warn that many are at risk from of infectious diseases like cholera, acute respiratory infection, diarrhoea and malaria — as well as Covid-19.

Tom Cotter, the director of emergency and disaster response for Project HOPE, a charity that has worked in Haiti for over 40 years, said that "when people do get to a clinic, they hope that it is not one of the 32 health facilities that were completely damaged or destroyed.”

“If the clinic is operational, they still may have to face shortages of medical supplies and personnel to treat them. If it isn’t, they are being tended to outside amidst challenging weather, heat, mosquitoes and potential violence from crowds.

According to The Washington Post, many of the Haitians who have arrived at the International Bridge are also migrants from the aftermath of the 2010 earthquake, which was 10 times more deadly than August’s tremor, and handicapped Haiti for a decade.

It is believed that they are part of a larger wave that had temporarily settled across South America, and are now headed north.

Asylum-seeking migrants reach the Rio Grande river, not far from The International Bridge. (REUTERS)
Asylum-seeking migrants reach the Rio Grande river, not far from The International Bridge. (REUTERS)

A federal judge on Thursday ruled on that the Biden administration could not block migrants under a public health rule known as Title 42, which was invoked under Donald Trump and has stopped thousands of people from entering the US during the Covid-19 pandemic, on humanitarian grounds.

Many more people are expected to arrive at the border in the following days, as those already there await processing by the overstretched US Customs and Border Protection agency.

It said in a statement that it has increased staffing in Del Rio to facilitate a "safe, humane and orderly process,” as well as providing food and water. Those at the border will eventually be moved to a more permanent facility.

Fox News’s Sean Hannity accused the FAA of “trying to prevent Fox’s drone from showing the American people the truth and capturing images just like this,” again showing viewers images of the 10,000 migrants at the border.

“The FAA is being used to cover up for Biden’s failures. And we are going to let that stand? I don’t think so.”

The network referred The Independent to an update from Melugin, its reporter in Del Rio, who said on Friday morning that Fox News was now flying its drone away from the FAA’s restriction zone.

“You can see we have our drone live up in the air right now, but it is now well outside of that TFR respecting that rule,” Melugin told America’s Newsroom. “And we're being kept so far away with our drone, we can no longer even see where the bridge is.”

“So we're not going to be able to show you those images anymore for the time being.”

While Fox News has been critical of the federal government and US president Joe Biden for rolling back many of the tougher measures introduced by Mr Trump at the border, Fox News anchors such as Carlson have used the border issue as a scapegoat for anti-migrant and occasionally racist rhetoric.

It includes Carlson last month facing criticism for telling viewers that “millions” of asylum applicants will “invade” American neighbourhoods following the US withdrawal from Afghanistan.

He has also recently been forced to defend saying that Democrats wanted to “change the demographics of the country” through immigration. The claim is a well known dog whistle for so-called “replacement theory”.

Additional reporting by Reuters

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