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US Launches Expulsion of Haitians in TX09/20 06:13


   DEL RIO, Texas (AP) -- The U.S. is flying Haitians camped in a Texas border 
town back to their homeland and blocking others from crossing the border from 
Mexico in a massive show of force that signals the beginning of what could be 
one of America's swiftest, large-scale expulsions of migrants or refugees in 

   More than 320 migrants arrived in Port-au-Prince on three flights Sunday, 
and Haiti said six flights were expected Tuesday. In all, U.S. authorities 
moved to expel many of the more 12,000 migrants camped around a bridge in Del 
Rio, Texas, after crossing from Ciudad Acua, Mexico.

   The U.S. plans to begin seven expulsion flights daily on Wednesday, four to 
Port-au-Prince and three to Cap-Haitien, according to a U.S. official who was 
not authorized to discuss the matter publicly. Flights will continue to depart 
from San Antonio but authorities may add El Paso, the official said.

   The only obvious parallel for such an expulsion without an opportunity to 
seek asylum was in 1992 when the Coast Guard intercepted Haitian refugees at 
sea, said Yael Schacher, senior U.S. advocate at Refugees International whose 
doctoral studies focused on the history of U.S. asylum law.

   Similarly large numbers of Mexicans have been sent home during peak years of 
immigration but over land and not so suddenly.

   Central Americans have also crossed the border in comparable numbers without 
being subject to mass expulsion, although Mexico has agreed to accept them from 
the U.S. under pandemic-related authority in effect since March 2020. Mexico 
does not accept expelled Haitians or people of other nationalities outside of 
Mexico, Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador.

   When the border was closed Sunday, the migrants initially found other ways 
to cross nearby until they were confronted by federal and state law 
enforcement. An Associated Press reporter saw Haitian immigrants still crossing 
the river into the U.S. about 1.5 miles (2.4 kilometers) east of the previous 
spot, but they were eventually stopped by Border Patrol agents on horseback and 
Texas law enforcement officials.

   As they crossed, some Haitians carried boxes on their heads filled with 
food. Some removed their pants before getting into the river and carried them. 
Others were unconcerned about getting wet.

   Agents yelled at the migrants who were crossing in the waist-deep river to 
get out of the water. The several hundred who had successfully crossed and were 
sitting along the river bank on the U.S. side were ordered to the Del Rio camp. 
"Go now," agents yelled. Mexican authorities in an airboat told others trying 
to cross to go back into Mexico.

   Migrant Charlie Jean had crossed back into Ciudad Acua from the camps to 
get food for his wife and three daughters, ages 2, 5 and 12. He was waiting on 
the Mexican side for a restaurant to bring him an order of rice.

   "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.

   Mexico said Sunday it would also begin deporting Haitians to their homeland. 
A government official said the flights would be from towns near the U.S. border 
and the border with Guatemala, where the largest group remains.

   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 by foot, bus and car to the U.S. border, 
including through the infamous Darien Gap, a Panamanian jungle.

   Some of the migrants at the Del Rio camp said the recent devastating 
earthquake in Haiti and the assassination of President Jovenel Mose make them 
afraid to return to a country that seems more unstable than when they left.

   "In Haiti, there is no security," said Fabricio Jean, a 38-year-old Haitian 
who arrived in Texas with his wife and two daughters. "The country is in a 
political crisis."

   Since Friday, 3,300 migrants have already been removed from the Del Rio camp 
to planes or detention centers, Border Patrol Chief Raul L. Ortiz said Sunday. 
He expected to have 3,000 of the approximately 12,600 remaining migrants moved 
within a day, and aimed for the rest to be gone within the week.

   "We are working around the clock to expeditiously move migrants out of the 
heat, elements and from underneath this bridge to our processing facilities in 
order to quickly process and remove individuals from the United States 
consistent with our laws and our policies," Ortiz said at news conference at 
the Del Rio bridge. The Texas city of about 35,000 people sits roughly 145 
miles (230 kilometers) west of San Antonio.

   Six flights were scheduled in Haiti on Tuesday -- three in Port-au-Prince 
and three in the northern city of Cap-Haitien, said Jean Ngot Bonheur Delva, 
Haiti's migration director.

   The rapid expulsions were made possible by a pandemic-related authority 
adopted by former President Donald Trump in March 2020 that allows for migrants 
to be immediately removed from the country without an opportunity to seek 
asylum. President Joe Biden exempted unaccompanied children from the order but 
let the rest stand.

   Any Haitians not expelled are subject to immigration laws, which include 
rights to seek asylum and other forms of humanitarian protection. Families are 
quickly released in the U.S. because the government cannot generally hold 

   Some people arriving on the first flight covered their heads as they walked 
into a large bus parked next to the plane. Dozens lined up to receive a plate 
of rice, beans, chicken and plantains as they wondered where they would sleep 
and how they would make money to support their families.

   All were given $100 and tested for COVID-19, though authorities were not 
planning to put them into quarantine, said Marie-Lourde Jean-Charles with the 
Office of National Migration.

   Gary Monplaisir, 26, said his parents and sister live in Port-au-Prince, but 
he wasn't sure if he would stay with them because to reach their house he, his 
wife and their 5-year-old daughter would cross a gang-controlled area called 
Martissant where killings are routine.

   "I'm scared," he said. "I don't have a plan."

   He moved to Chile in 2017, just as he was about to earn an accounting 
degree, to work as a tow truck driver. He later paid for his wife and daughter 
to join him. They tried to reach the U.S. because he thought he could get a 
better-paying job and help his family in Haiti.

   "We're always looking for better opportunities," he said.

   Some migrants said they were planning to leave Haiti again as soon as 
possible. Valeria Ternission, 29, said she and her husband want to travel with 
their 4-year-old son back to Chile, where she worked as a bakery's cashier.

   "I am truly worried, especially for the child," she said. "I can't do 
anything here."

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