By MARÍA VERZA and JUAN LOZANO
DEL RIO, Texas (AP) — The Texas border crossing where thousands of Haitian migrants converged in recent weeks will be partially reopened late Saturday afternoon, U.S. Customs and Border Protection said.
Federal and local officials said no migrants remained at the makeshift encampment as of Friday, after some of the nearly 15,000 people were expelled from the country and many others were allowed to remain in the U.S., at least temporarily, as they try to seek asylum.
In a statement, officials said trade and travel operations would resume at the Del Rio Port of Entry for passenger traffic at 4 p.m. Saturday. It will be reopened for cargo traffic on Monday morning. CBP temporarily closed the border crossing between Del Rio and Ciudad Acuña, Mexico, on Sept. 17 after the migrants suddenly crossed into Del Rio and made camp around the U.S. side of the border bridge.
CBP agents on Saturday searched the brush along the Rio Grande to ensure that no one was hiding near the site. Bruno Lozano, the mayor of Del Rio, said officials also wanted to be sure no other large groups of migrants were making their way to the Del Rio area to try to set up a similar camp.
The Department of Homeland Security planned to continue flights to Haiti throughout the weekend, ignoring criticism from Democratic lawmakers and human rights groups who say Haitian migrants are being sent back to a troubled country that some left more than a decade ago.
The number of people at the Del Rio encampment peaked last Saturday as migrants driven by confusion over the Biden administration’s policies and misinformation on social media converged at the border crossing.
The U.S. and Mexico worked swiftly, appearing eager to end the humanitarian situation that prompted the resignation of the U.S. special envoy to Haiti and widespread outrage after images emerged of border agents maneuvering their horses to forcibly block and move migrants
Many migrants face expulsion because they are not covered by protections recently extended by the Biden administration to the more than 100,000 Haitian migrants already in the U.S., citing security concerns and social unrest in the Western Hemisphere’s poorest country. A devastating 2010 earthquake forced many from their homeland.
The U.S. government expelled 2,324 Haitians on 21 flights to Haiti from Sunday through Friday, according to the Department of Homeland Security. On Friday, the government operated four flights from Del Rio with 375 Haitian migrants; two flights to Port-au-Prince and two to Cap-Haitien. The department said the flights will continue “on a regular basis” as people are expelled under pandemic powers that deny migrants the chance to seek asylum.
The Trump administration enacted the policy, called Title 42, in March 2020 to justify restrictive immigration policies in an effort to prevent the spread of the coronavirus. The Biden administration has used it to justify the deportation of Haitian migrants.