Haitian migrants continued to wade through the Rio Grande on Monday to cross into the United States from Mexico, as Department of Homeland Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas traveled to this border city to warn that repatriations will continue despite a recent court ruling.
A federal judge had blocked the Biden administration from expelling families from the United States under the public health law known as Title 42, but delayed the effective date for 14 days.
The delays provide DHS with time to carry out ramped-up expulsions, with Mayorkas saying the Biden administration is planning on sending as many as three flights a day to Haiti with migrants who in recent days had crossed into Del Rio, Texas, from Mexico.
“This is not the way to come to the United States,” Mayorkas said. “Irregular migration poses a serious security risk to the migrants themselves; trying to enter the United States illegally is not worth the tragedy, the money or the effort.
“Our borders are not open, and people should not make the dangerous journey,” Mayorkas said.
He continued to stress the administration’s concerns that Haitians are coming to the U.S. based on false information that the U.S. borders are open and that Temporary Protected Status is available to anyone who arrives.
“If you come to the United States illegally you will be returned,” he said.
Visiting the international bridge in Del Rio where nearly 15,000 migrants, most of them Haitian, have gathered in makeshift tents underneath a bridge, Mayorkas said the scene was “heartbreaking.”
He emphasized that while U.S. Customs and Border Patrol has sent 600 agents to Del Rio, more will be added if needed.
By the end of Monday, approximately 6,000 migrants will have been bused out to other processing centers, to be removed from the United States, and DHS is securing “additional transportation to accelerate the pace and capacity to [send migrants to] Haiti and other destinations within the Western Hemisphere”
“We anticipate at least 1 to 3 flights per day,” Mayorkas said as Haiti prepared to receive three more flights Monday after migrants began returning the previous day.
Mayorkas said the Biden administration is also working with other countries in the region to take migrants who previously worked in those countries. Many of the migrants arriving in Del Rio were previously in Brazil, Chile and other South and Central American nations before arriving in Mexico.
Mayorkas said DHS continues to exercise Title 42, which he said “is not an immigration authority. It’s a health authority to protect the American public, to protect communities along the border and to protect the migrants themselves.”
Title 42 allows the expulsion of migrants who have been in countries where there is a communicable disease, in this case COVID-19.
Joseph Champagne, an immigration lawyer and former mayor of South Toms River, New Jersey, called Title 42 and the administration’s immigration policy toward Haitian migrants “disastrous.” He was among a half-dozen Haitian community leaders, including North Miami Council members Alix Desulme and Mary Estime-Irvin, who flew to Del Rio over the weekend to see the unfolding drama.
As Champagne spoke, his phone rang nonstop with numbers bearing Haiti, Florida and New York area codes of family members seeking news or advice about loved ones under the bridge.
Title 42 “gives the opening for officials to use it discriminatorily,” Champagne said. “How can they determine what group from what region should be subjected to Title 42? We didn’t see that with the Afghans, where 20,000 of them were brought in by plane by the United States. What is the barometer by which they decide the application of Title 42? That’s why we feel that it should not only be stayed given the judge’s ruling, or repealed, but it should be eliminated where migrants are concerned.”
Champagne, like others, did not get a chance to see any of the detained migrants who have started to share images on social media of the deplorable conditions under the bridge.
Desulme, the North Miami councilman who heads an association of elected Haitian American leaders, joined in the call for the elimination of Title 42, saying it allows for wholesale deportation of Haitians.