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.
That process had been chaotic, with migrants dropped off at all hours at a local gas station that doubles as a Greyhound bus stop in Del Rio. Not even sure the name of the city they were in, migrants struggled to get in touch with family using their Mexican, Chilean and Brazilian cellphones, which lack internet access.
In Houston, about 1,000 Haitians have arrived at a shelter near the airport since Monday looking for assistance after being released by U.S. Customs and Border Protection, said Stevens Merilan, a local DJ known as DJ Bugz and a member of Houston Haitians United.
The migrants arrive by bus and are registered as well as tested for COVID-19. The grassroots organization also works to put them in touch with family, or in some cases try to find sponsors willing to take them in.
“The folks are coming with nothing,” Merilan said, adding that those looking to help can write to firstname.lastname@example.org. “We have to provide them with underwear, toiletries.”
Merilan said 65 people have volunteered since the start of the surge to help, but they are in desperate need of bilingual Creole-speaking volunteers. They also need funding to purchase airfare and bus tickets.