Homeland Security vowed Saturday to take a new, tougher approach to the thousands of illegal immigrants — chiefly Haitians — who have breached the border in Del Rio, Texas, and established a massive migrant camp on the U.S. side of the Rio Grande.
The department, in an unsigned statement, said it would rush hundreds of Border Patrol agents and Customs and Border Protection officers to the spot to help process the migrants, and said it’s looking to ramp up deportation flights to Haiti so people can be ousted.
And the department said it’s also working with other countries where the Haitians may have been living before they made the journey to the U.S., hoping to get those other nations to take them back. That’s because many of the Haitians had been living in places like Brazil and Argentina, not Haiti, and saw the Biden administration’s more relaxed approach to immigration enforcement as an invitation to try to jump the border.
For those migrants at the massive camp, Homeland Security said it is deploying Border Patrol medical technicians to try to keep people safe amid what’s been described as filthy conditions. Agents are also providing water and towels and the government is setting up portable toilets.
Those steps follow the decision late Friday to shut down the border crossing at Del Rio and to reroute traffic to Eagle Pass, about an hour’s drive down the Rio Grande.
Homeland Security said it’s trying to send a message that the border isn’t open and people shouldn’t make the attempt.
“Individuals and families are subject to border restrictions, including expulsion. Irregular migration poses a significant threat to the health and welfare of border communities and to the lives of migrants themselves, and should not be attempted.
The camp had been fluctuating in the hundreds of people for several weeks but in recent days started to swell as more migrants saw the situation as an invitation.
It became a serious test of the country’s southern border, with about 10,000 migrants occupying the camp, underneath the international bridge that serves as the port of entry.
Most are Haitian, though officials on the ground said Cubans and Venezuelans are present as well.
Migrants at the camp had yet to be arrested by Border Patrol agents, because there are simply too many of them. Agents are handing out tickets to let the migrants known when it’s their turn to be formally apprehended and processed.
The migrants are coming because Mexico has said it won’t accept Haitians and some other nationalities being returned across the border.
Also, the Biden administration had dismantled much of the Trump enforcement framework, leaving the U.S. government little option but to catch and release the migrants.
The new Biden policies announced Saturday mark a significant reversal, at least in tone, with vows of expanded deportation flights and use of expedited removal, a speedy ouster process that immigrant-rights advocates abhor.
The get-tough approach toward Haitians is also jarring because Homeland Security just last month issued a new deportation amnesty for citizens of that country, citing political unrest and human rights abuses.