WASHINGTON — The last remaining Haitian migrants who were living in squalid conditions in makeshift encampments underneath a bridge in Del Rio, Texas, along the U.S.-Mexico border have been cleared out, the head of the Department of Homeland Security said Friday.
“As of this morning there are no longer any migrants in the camp underneath the Del Rio International Bridge,” DHS Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas said.
The surge in migrants, which caught DHS officials off guard, was the result of an unprecedented movement of a very large number of people traveling to a single point of the border within a matter of a few days, he added.
“Nearly 30,000 migrants have been encountered at Del Rio since Sept. 9, with the highest number at one time reaching approximately 15,000,” he said.
Mayorkas said that while migrants continue to be expelled under the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s public-health law known as Title 42, some 12,400 individuals have been released or paroled into the United States and will have their cases heard by an immigration judge to determine whether they will be repatriated or permitted to remain in the United States. He did not say how many Haitians from the recent migrant surge have been released.
Immigration and civil-rights activists have called for an end of the deportations, and the use of Title 42, which they say deny Haitian asylum seekers the right to seek protection in the United States. Though a federal judge recently ruled that the Biden administration cannot continue to use the law, which was first invoked by the Trump administration during the COVID-19 pandemic, he delayed his order for 14 days, giving the administration time to clear out the camp.
Mayorkas continued DHS’s use of Title 42, saying it is not an immigration policy. “It is important to note that Title 42 is applicable and has been applicable to all irregular migration during this pandemic,” the secretary said.
There have been at least 22 repatriation flights to Haiti as of Friday. Those who haven’t been repatriated have been placed in immigration removal proceedings.
On Thursday, there were fewer than 3,100 migrants left under the Del Rio camp after more than 1,900 had been repatriated to Haiti. An estimated 8,000 had decided to return to Mexico voluntarily out of fear of being deported to Haiti, the secretary said.
“Just over 5,000 are being processed by DHS to determine whether they will be expelled or placed in immigration removal proceedings,” Mayorkas said.