Migrants flown out of Texas border city after thousands cross Rio Grande from Mexico
US authorities flew migrants out of a Texas border city on Sunday where thousands of mostly Haitians had gathered under a bridge after crossing the Rio Grande river from Mexico.
Reuters journalists saw a white bus escorted by US Customs and Border Protection (CBP) agents enter the Del Rio airport, then a group boarding a Coast Guard plane. A police source said the people were migrants and a source familiar with airport operations said the aircraft was heading to El Paso, Texas.
Meanwhile, Tom Cartwright of the advocacy group Witness at the Border who tracks US Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) flights, told Reuters three flights left Texas - one from Laredo and two from San Antonio - on Sunday carrying Haitians to Haiti.
ICE spokespeople did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) announced on Saturday that it was accelerating expulsions to Haiti, sending more CBP agents to the area, and other steps to address the humanitarian and political challenge posed by thousands of people sheltering in increasingly squalid conditions under the bridge that links Del Rio with Ciudad Acuña in Mexico.
Officials on both sides of the border have said most of the migrants were from Haiti.
Reuters saw a dozen law enforcement officers on the US side of the border on Sunday, some on horses. A Texas Department of Public Safety (DPS) helicopter circled overhead, and yellow tape reading “sheriff’s line do not cross” was strung up.
Haitian Jean Agenord, his Chilean wife Makarena Vines and their 17-month-old son were stopped from crossing on Sunday.
Agenord, resting his arms on a cardboard box, his feet still in the water, told Reuters the family had spent all their money and didn’t have a place to stay in Mexico.
“I can’t cross here, I can’t cross there,” he said. “What am I going to do?”
The couple asked locals whether they knew a place to stay in Mexico, saying they would try to cross again.
The embankment on the Mexico side was strewn with water bottles and take-out boxes, signs of the many people who had crossed the river into the United States to await immigration processing. Migrants had been wading back into Mexico to buy supplies to take to the camp under the bridge, but appeared no longer able to do so on Sunday.