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Last of Haitian migrants cleared from camp in Del Rio, Texas, DHS chief says

Jacqueline Charles, Bryan Lowry and Michael Wilner, McClatchy Washington Bureau on

Published in News & Features

On Thursday, there were about 3,100 migrants left under the Del Rio camp after 1,949 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.

DHS increased the number of removal flights using both international airports in Haiti’s capital of Port-au-Prince and the Hugo Chavez International Airport in the northern city of Cap-Haitien.

“Last weekend, we had approximately 15,000 individuals in the Del Rio section. I committed to addressing that within 10 days. And today we have none. And that was because of the Department of Homeland Security’s assets, with the assistance of others across the government,” Mayorkas said.

Advocates have raised concerns that the administration is returning people to a country where they haven’t lived in years, where the president was recently assassinated and a deadly 7.2 earthquake destroyed entire towns in its southern region. The same week of the rush to the border, U.N. agencies said that gang violence in Port-au-Prince had blocked the road to the south, leaving half of the quake victims without access to humanitarian assistance.

DHS has said that it studied conditions in Haiti, which led to designating Temporary Protected Status for those Haitian nationals residing in the U.S. prior to July 29. The agency is mindful, Mayorkas said, of the July 7 assassination of the country’s president and ”we were unsure of the results of that assassination in terms of the stability of the political order.”

 

However, in continuing to study the conditions in Haiti, Mayorkas said, the U.S. has “determined, despite the tragic and devastating earthquake, that Haiti is in fact capable of receiving individuals, and we are working with Haiti and with humanitarian relief agencies, to ensure that their return is as safe and humanely accomplished as possible.”

On the eve of the first deportation flights, Haiti’s Office of National Migration asked for a humanitarian moratorium, which was ignored by the U.S.

The secretary said the number of removal flights to Haiti were commensurate with its capacity to receive migrants. The U.S. Agency for International Development, he said, has established a $5.5 million program to provide on-the-ground assistance to repatriated Haitian migrants.

Edmond, the Haitian ambassador, said he didn’t know if the money had been received in Port-au-Prince in time to assist those being returned, but added he had some concerns about how the repatriations were done. In Del Rio, he plans to join other Haitian officials who had been trying to see migrants before the camp was emptied.

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