San Francisco Chronicle

U.S. shuts border crossing, begins flying Haitians home

- By Juan A. Lozano, Eric Gay and Elliot Spagat Juan A. Lozano, Eric Gay and Elliot Spagat are Associated Press writers.

DEL RIO, Texas — The United States acted Sunday to stem the flow of migrants into Texas by blocking the Mexican border at an isolated town where thousands of Haitian refugees set up a camp, and American officials began flying some of the migrants back to their homeland.

About a dozen Texas Department of Public Safety vehicles lined up near the bridge and river where Haitians have been crossing from Ciudad Acuna, Mexico, into Del Rio for almost three weeks. Yellow police tape was being used to block them from using a small dam to walk into the U.S.

A police officer on the Mexican side of the border said migrants will not be allowed to cross anymore. He would not give his name. But an Associated Press reporter saw Haitian immigrants still crossing the river into the U.S. about 1.5 miles east of the previous spot. They were later stopped by Border Patrol agents on horseback and Texas law enforcemen­t officials.

Migrant Charlie Jean had crossed back into Ciudad Acuna from the camps to get food for his wife and three daughters, ages 2, 5 and 12.

“We need food for every day. I can go without, but my kids can’t,” said Jean, who had been living in Chile for five years before beginning the trek north to the U.S. It was unknown if he made it back across and to the camp.

Haitians have been migrating to the U.S. in large numbers from South America for several years, many having left their Caribbean nation after a devastatin­g 2010 earthquake. After jobs dried up from the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, many made the dangerous trek to the U.S. border.

Border Patrol Chief Raul Ortiz said Sunday that 3,300 migrants have already been removed from the Del Rio camp to planes or detention centers, and he expects to have 3,000 of the approximat­ely 12,600 remaining migrants to be moved within a day. The rest should be gone within the week, he said. The first three planes left San Antonio for Port-auPrince on Sunday.

“We are working around the clock to expeditiou­sly move migrants out of the heat, elements and from underneath this bridge to our processing facilities,” Ortiz said at news conference at the bridge.

The blockade and deportatio­ns marked a swift response to the sudden arrival of Haitians in Del Rio, a Texas city of about 35,000 people roughly 145 miles west of San Antonio.

At the airport in Haiti’s capital of Port-auPrince, about a dozen officials from various government agencies gathered to meet with the repatriate­d Haitians.

The Haitian government protested the move to expel the migrants from the U.S., arguing that Haiti is mired in a political and humanitari­an crisis and does not have the means to receive thousands of homeless people.

“The Haitian state is not really capable to receive these deportees,” Jean Negot Bonheur Delva, head of Haiti’s national migration office, told the New York Times.

 ?? Sarah Blake Morgan / Associated Press ?? Migrants cross the Rio Grande between Mexico and the United States near the Texas city of Del Rio.
Sarah Blake Morgan / Associated Press Migrants cross the Rio Grande between Mexico and the United States near the Texas city of Del Rio.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from United States