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Haitian Migrants Trapped Along The Rio Grande By U.S. And Mexican Governments

Many migrants fear being expelled to their respective countries after such a long journey without the opportunity to seek asylum.

By Katie McTiernan, Stephania Corpi, Fernanda Camarena , Dan Katz, Texas Public Radio

Federal officials continue to relocate the mostly Haitian asylum seekers camped under the International Bridge in Del Rio, but tension is growing on the Mexican side of the border in Ciudad Acuña.

Mexican immigration authorities on Thursday blocked the entrance to the riverside camp where hundreds of migrants have gathered.

Around 5:30 a.m., immigration and police officers surrounded the camp in Ciudad Acuña, blocking the entrance and a spot along the river where migrants crossed to the U.S. They were not allowed to leave the camp, but authorities let in aid workers and medical personnel. Later in the day, Mexican immigration officials entered the camp and tried to negotiate with the a few of the migrants:

“If there were two options to either die or send me back to Haiti, I prefer to die. Because of the situation that our country is under,” said Jason, a Haitian migrant speaking to a Mexican immigration officer. He asked that TPR only use his first name in fear of retaliation.

Mexican authorities told the group they wanted to take them to a place that was safe, where they where they could finish or begin the asylum process. However, the officers were not able to provide details on where they would send them.

“How could I go back to zero?” Jason asked the immigration officer.

Many migrants fear being expelled to their respective countries after such a long journey without the opportunity to seek asylum. According to Mexico’s immigration agency, an estimated 600 migrants remained in Ciudad Acuña while more than 4,000 remain across the river in Del Rio.

The Biden Administration has been conducting three expulsions flights a day to Haiti under a part of U.S. Health Code called Title 42. The Trump administration enacted it at the start of the pandemic and began rapidly expelling migrants, claiming it would stop the spread of COVID-19 and Biden has continued it.

Immigrant rights activists call this policy illegal because the expulsions do not allow the migrants a lawful asylum process. The Biden administration in May granted Haitians living within the United States  Temporary Protected Status (TPS). Since then, the country has been devastated by civil unrest and an earthquake. However, TPS does not apply to Haitian nationals who have attempted to travel to the U.S. since May.