Montreal Gazette


Leave camp under a bridge on Rio Grande


CIUDAD ACUNA • Hundreds of Haitians returned to Mexico from a sprawling migrant camp across the border in Del Rio, Texas, on Monday, fearing expulsion to their homeland as U.S. authoritie­s organized flights back to Haiti.

The camp under a bridge spanning the Rio Grande is the latest flashpoint for U.S. authoritie­s seeking to stem the flow of migrants fleeing gang violence, extreme poverty and natural disasters in their home countries.

The first flights carrying migrants landed in Portau-prince on Sunday from the Del Rio camp arrived in Haiti on Sunday, with at least three more due to make the journey on Monday, according to flight tracking website Flightawar­e.

U.S. officials closed the Del Rio border crossing last Friday due to the crush of migrants, and said Monday it remained shuttered with most traffic re-routed to the Eagle Pass, Texas, border crossing, some 90 km south.

The prospect of deportatio­ns galvanized the camp's residents, some of whom traversed continents over months to reach the border.

“They can't send us back to Haiti because everyone knows what Haiti is like right now,” said Haitian migrant Wildly Jeanmary late on Sunday, wearing only boxer shorts and standing on the Mexican side of the river after crossing it.

Drenched, he cited July's presidenti­al assassinat­ion as a reason not to return with his wife and their two-yearold daughter to the poorest country in the Americas. Haiti was also hit by a major earthquake last month.

“The government of the United States has no conscience,” said Haitian migrant Nerlin Clerge, who also stood near the riverbank and had travelled to the camp with his wife and their two young sons. He said he is now considerin­g applying for the right to stay in Mexico.

The Del Rio camp was temporary home to more than 12,000 migrants. Many had come from as far south as Chile to get there, hoping to apply for asylum protection­s in the United States.

Migrants were continuing to cross the river over the weekend despite heightened security on the U.S. side that included horse-mounted agents, one of whom charged his horse to block migrants and swung what looked like a lariat at a person trying to climb up the embankment.

At least 100 Haitians, including families with small children, crossed back into Mexico from under the bridge on Sunday evening, gripping a yellow rope stretched across the river that had risen to chest level.

Many carried plastic bags of belongings, and several people told Reuters they planned to stay in Mexico for now because they did not want to be returned to Haiti.

U.S. Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas travelled to Del Rio on Monday to meet with local officials.

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