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Haitian migrants from Del Rio are being released in El Paso and received by local shelters

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El Paso non-governmental organizations have begun receiving Haitian migrants released from U.S. Department of Homeland Security custody.

More than 100 Haitian migrants who had entered the United States through Del Rio, Texas, were received by an El Paso migrant shelter on Thursday after being released from federal immigration custody, said Ruben Garcia, director of Annunciation House, a local shelter network.

Garcia said he expected more Haitians to arrive on Friday.

On Friday afternoon, two 29-year-old Haitian men sat at the El Paso airport waiting to fly to New York, where their family members live. They had taken a tumultuous journey from Haiti to the United States, crossing the border from Ciudad Acuña, Mexico, into Del Rio before being brought by U.S. immigration officials to El Paso, where they were processed and released.

“The problem (in Haiti is) no security, and my president who is dead,” one of the men said. They both asked not to be identified for fear of negative consequences. “Without food, without work how can you live? That’s why we look for another country,” he said in Spanish.

The men are among the increased numbers of Haitian migrants who have been released in El Paso, following the crisis at an encampment underneath and near the bridge separating Del Rio and Ciudad Acuña.

A Border Patrol vehicle and a GEO bus meet a Coast Guard plane at the El Paso airport on Sept. 22. The Department of Homeland Security is transporting Haitian migrants from the Del Rio area to El Paso for processing, including expulsion to Haiti. (Corrie Boudreaux/El Paso Matters)

As of Friday morning, the migrant camp underneath the bridge near Del Rio had been cleared out, DHS Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas said. Among the 30,000 migrants who had arrived to the Del Rio area since Sept. 9, approximately 12,400 have been released into the United States as their asylum cases are reviewed. Approximately 8,000 Haitians had returned to Mexico “voluntarily,” Mayorkas said, and 2,000 had been expelled to Haiti aboard 17 flights.

Images of U.S. Border Patrol agents on horseback corralling Haitian migrants have garnered an international backlash against the treatment of Haitians at the border, amid a mass expulsion of Haitians back to the poor Caribbean nation beset with political turmoil and the aftermath of catastrophic natural disasters. DHS announced Thursday that it was temporarily suspending the use of horses by agents in Del Rio.

The U.S. special envoy to Haiti resigned Thursday in response to the Biden administration’s treatment of Haitians.

“I will not be associated with the United States inhumane, counterproductive decision to deport thousands of Haitian refugees and illegal immigrants to Haiti, a country where American officials are confined to secure compounds because of the danger posed by armed gangs in control of daily life,” Ambassador Daniel Foote wrote in his resignation letter.

The U.S. Department of State has a “level four: do not travel” advisory for Haiti, warning of kidnapping, crime and civil unrest.

El Paso officials had previously announced that Haitians were being transported to El Paso prior to being expelled to Haiti. County Judge Ricardo Samaniego said 500 Haitians were being brought to El Paso each day for processing.

On Thursday, El Paso leaders and advocates gathered to protest the mass expulsion of Haitians in Downtown El Paso. 

Cover photo: Alfredo waits in the lobby of the El Paso International Airport for his flight to New York on Friday. Alfredo, who asked that his full name not be used, is among the Haitian asylum seekers who crossed into the United States at Del Rio, Texas, and was brought to El Paso to be processed for release. (Corrie Boudreaux/El Paso Matters)

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René Kladzyk

René Kladzyk is a musician and writer based in El Paso. She performs original music as Ziemba, and has written for publications including Teen Vogue, i-D, and The Creative Independent. Her new album came out on Sister Polygon Records in September 2020, and she is hopeful that we’ll be able to enjoy live music together IRL again soon enough.

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