US dispatches 1000 border force officers as it scrambles to contain Haitian migrant crisis on Rio Grande

·4-min read
US dispatches 1000 border force officers as it scrambles to contain Haitian migrant crisis on Rio Grande - Eric Gay /AP
US dispatches 1000 border force officers as it scrambles to contain Haitian migrant crisis on Rio Grande - Eric Gay /AP

The US has dispatched 1,000 law enforcement officials to deal with a surge of Haitian migrants who have crossed the border from Mexico and ramped up deportation flights in a bid to tackle the crisis.

Border patrol, police officers and members of the army have been sent to Del Rio, Texas, where some 16,000 people have arrived illegally in the past week.

Joe Biden, the US president, is facing heavy criticism for allowing another humanitarian crisis to develop on the southern border, with the migrants living in a squalid camp under a bridge by the Rio Grande.

On Sunday, The Daily Telegraph saw convoys of dozens of vehicles, including buses, heading down the dusty track towards the camp, as officials scrambled to manage the influx of people to this usually quiet border city of 35,000 people.

“It has taken us all by surprise,” said one official at the site, who spoke on condition of anonymity.

“It is more organised than we could have ever imagined. There is obviously some sort of leadership structure, and no doubt there is a lot of money being made."

US dispatches 1000 border force officers as it scrambles to contain Haitian migrant crisis on Rio Grande - Miguel Sierra/EPA-EFE/Shutterstock /Shutterstock
US dispatches 1000 border force officers as it scrambles to contain Haitian migrant crisis on Rio Grande - Miguel Sierra/EPA-EFE/Shutterstock /Shutterstock

On Sunday, US officials blocked the route which migrants have been taking across the Rio Grande.

Around a dozen Texas Department of Public Safety vehicles lined up near the bridge and river where Haitians have been crossing from Ciudad Acuna.

Yellow police tape is being used to block them from using a small dam to walk into the US. A police officer on the Mexican side of the border also told Associated Press that migrants won't be allowed to cross anymore.

It is hoped that the move will mean that the official crossing - which has now been closed for three days - will be re-opened to legitimate cross-border travel.

Two soldiers holding M4 carbines guarded the entrance to the camp area, sheltering from the punishing 37 degree heat beside their sand-coloured Humvee.

Beyond them, clusters of men and women could be seen erecting shelters using broken branches from nearby trees.

Some have been returning to Mexico to fetch supplies, then walking back across the river to reach the camp.

US dispatches 1000 border force officers as it scrambles to contain Haitian migrant crisis on Rio Grande - Eric Gay /AP
US dispatches 1000 border force officers as it scrambles to contain Haitian migrant crisis on Rio Grande - Eric Gay /AP

At least two women have given birth on site in the last few days.

"There is urine, feces and we are sleeping next to garbage," said Michael Vargas, 30, who has been at the camp with his wife and two children for three days.

Bruno Lozano, the Democratic mayor of Del Rio, hit out at Kamala Harris, the US vice president who is also a Democrat, who has been tasked with handling the border situation. On Saturday, she attended a university American football match to do the coin toss.

“The VP is able to visit the fun events across the country, while American communities continue to grapple with failed immigration reform. Where is the visit to Del Rio, TX?” he asked.

Greg Abbott, the Texas governor, said: “The Biden administration is in complete disarray and is handling the border crisis as badly as the evacuation from Afghanistan.”

At the camp, Mr Vargas said his family had been given ticket number 16,000 and authorities were currently processing number 9,800. He said people were being separated into three groups: single men, single women and families.

US dispatches 1000 border force officers as it scrambles to contain Haitian migrant crisis on Rio Grande - Eric Gay /AP
US dispatches 1000 border force officers as it scrambles to contain Haitian migrant crisis on Rio Grande - Eric Gay /AP

Typically, migrants who arrive at the border and turn themselves in to officials can claim asylum if they fear being returned to their home country, triggering a long court process.

However, a sweeping public health order known as Title 42, issued under the Trump administration at the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic, allows most migrants to be quickly expelled without a chance of claiming asylum.

Mr Biden has kept that rule in place though he exempted unaccompanied minors and has not been expelling most families.

The deportations were condemned by left-wing Democratic congresswoman Ilhan Omar.

"This is completely inhumane, Haitians are experiencing crisis after crisis and deserve compassion," she wrote on Twitter. "Instead of stepping up deportation, we should be halting it. It’s shameful that from administration to administration our cruel immigration policies remain."

Deportation flights to Haiti had been paused following the assassination of president Jovonel Moise in July and an earthquake which killed 2,000 people in August, but were expected to resume on Sunday night.

The Department for Homeland Security announced that it was securing “additional transportation to accelerate the pace and increase the capacity of removal flights to Haiti and other destinations within the next 72 hours.”

The Telegraph understands that at least two flights were due to leave on Sunday night and that as many as 8-10 a day could take off this week.

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