WINDSOR TERRACE — The migrants camped beneath the Del Rio International Bridge in Texas may have been dispersed by Sept. 24, but the impact of the latest chapter in this year’s border crisis will still be experienced nationwide, as thousands of the refugees are relocating across the U.S.
Department of Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas said this past weekend that, out of the 30,000 migrants who crossed the U.S.-Mexico border into Del Rio over the past two weeks, about 12,400 were released into the U.S. and will have their cases heard by immigration judges.
There were 5,000 migrants left to be processed as of Sept. 26, who could either be released into the U.S. or expelled, Mayorkas said. Another 4,000 had already been placed on flights out of the country, as mandated by Title 42 — a federal policy enacted in March 2021 that allows the expulsion of migrants on health grounds, limiting their legal right to asylum. The secretary said on Sept. 24 that about 8,000 other migrants returned to Mexico voluntarily.
The majority of the removal flights went to Haiti, where most of the migrants were originally from. However, many had made their way to the border from Central American countries where they’d lived since fleeing Haiti following an earthquake that devastated the Caribbean nation in 2010.
The release of thousands of migrants into the U.S. undermined statements Mayorkas made when he visited Del Rio last weekend. At that time, he warned migrants against attempting to cross the border, stating, “if you come to the United States illegally, you will be returned.”
At the height of the influx, there were approximately 15,000 migrants camped under the Del Rio bridge at one time, a mass of humanity that overwhelmed the border security in the small Texas community. As the situation worsened, immigration advocates decried what they saw.
Images sent from beneath the bridge depicted inhumane conditions in which migrants were suffering in 90-degree-plus temperatures and wading through shoulder-deep water across the Rio Grande River back to Mexico to obtain basic supplies for their families. Border patrol agents on horseback were attempting to forcibly deter migrants from crossing the river.
The latter images garnered nationwide attention and led to accusations the agents were whipping the migrants. Vice President Kamala Harris stated she was deeply troubled by the horseback scenes and echoed her full support for a “thorough investigation” into the conduct of the border patrol agents.
Texas Gov. Greg Abbott, a Republican, on Sunday vowed to rehire the border patrol agents if they were fired by the Biden administration. He also blasted the White House for its border policy and said the state would take its own action to secure the border.
“The Biden administration has abandoned any pretense of securing the sovereignty of either Texas or the United States by having these open border policies,” Abbott said on Fox News Sunday.
There are multiple factors believed to have contributed to the latest migration surge in Del Rio. One factor that Mayorkas previously alluded to was a misguided belief among the migrants that they were eligible for Temporary Protected Status after the Biden administration recently extended such protections for more than 100,000 Haitians already living in the United States.
Cecilia Suarez, the head of Catholic Relief Services Mexico, told The Tablet in an email that “many migrants find themselves on the streets and unable to work” in Central American countries, which could be another factor, along with their inability to access COVID-19 vaccines.
She noted that the Mexican Commission for Refugee Aid reported that this year there have been a record number of Haitians requesting refugee status in Mexico. In August alone, more than 13,000 applications for recognition of refugee status were registered, Suarez said.
“The intention of many of these people is to have refugee recognition in Mexico to earn money while they wait to enter the United States,” Suarez said.
Reports indicate that many of the migrants who voluntarily returned to Mexico are planning to cross again at different entry points along the border. Mayorkas admitted in multiple television appearances this past weekend that U.S. immigration laws are a broken system that the administration is committed to fixing. However, he reiterated the administration does not believe in doing so through border walls.