KEY POINTS

  • Haitian migrants released with notices to appear at an immigration office within 60 days
  • U.S. plans to begin seven expulsion flight daily to Haiti from Wednesday
  • Mexico transporting Haitian migrants away from the U.S. border

U.S. Officials said a large number of Haitian migrants camping in Del Rio, Texas have been released in the United States, undermining the Biden administration’s statement that thousands will be immediately deported under rules designed to prevent the spread of COVID-19.

One U.S. official told Associated Press on condition of anonymity that the migrants have been released with notices to appear at an immigration office within 60 days. This method requires less processing time from border patrol. The authorities are speeding up the process to empty the large migrant camps under a bridge in Del Rio, that held more than 14,000 migrants over the weekend, according to CNN.

Another U.S. official told Associated Press that a large number of Haitians were being processed under immigration laws and were not being placed on expulsion flight to Haiti that started Saturday. 

Currently, the Homeland Security Department has been transporting Haitians from Del Rio to El Paso, Laredo and the Rio Grande Valley along the Texas border and Tuscon, Arizona using busses and flights. 

The report of migrants being released comes after Biden administration signals the beginning of one of what could be America's swiftest large-scale expulsions of migrants or refugees in decades. Starting Wednesday, the U.S. plans to begin seven expulsion flights to Haiti daily, four to Port-au-Prince and three to Cap-Haitien, said another U.S. official on the condition of anonymity to CBS News.

Associated Press observed wide-scale releases at the Del Rio bus station. The accounts are at odds with Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas who promised swift action. 

At a news conference, Mayorkas said “If you come to the United States illegally, you will be returned, your journey will not succeed, and you will be endangering your life and your family’s life.”

It is unclear what factors are being considered to decide who gets placed on the expulsion flight and who gets released. But, according to two U.S. officials, single adults were being prioritized for the flight to Haiti.

The White House is facing a bipartisan backlash over its handling of the challenging humanitarian crisis at the border. The Republicans stated that the Biden administration’s policies made the Haitians believe that they could get asylum, whereas the Democrats strongly condemned the use of force and aggressive tactics at the border after images of Border Patrol agents on horseback using what appears to be a whip on migrants went viral. 

On Tuesday, dozens of Haitian migrants angry at having been deported back to Haiti tried to rush back into a U.S. plane after disembarking, reported Reuters. Ground staff was able to close the door of the plane before a migrant could scale back into the cabin. Some deportees began throwing rocks and shoes at the plane.

On the other side of the border, Mexico has started rounding up and transporting Haitian migrants away from the U.S. border signaling a new level of support for the United States. 

Marcelo Ebrard, Mexico’s foreign relations secretary said most Haitians already had refugee status in Chile or Brazil. They are not seeking asylum in Mexico. “What they are asking for is to be allowed to pass freely through Mexico to the United States,” Ebrard was quoted as saying by the Associated Press. 

A Mexican federal official, under the condition of anonymity, said that migrants are being moved away from Acuña, which shares a border with the United States. A second official added that they plan to all Haitians to Tapachula who already solicited asylum in Mexico. Haitian migrants who have not requested asylum and are already in Mexico’s detention center will be deported directly to Haiti. 

Mexico has previously helped in key moments. In 2014, it intensified patrol to stop unaccompanied children from reaching the Texas border. In 2019, they allowed thousands of asylum-seekers to wait in Mexico for a hearing in U.S. immigration court. Last month, Mexico began deporting Central American migrants that were flown to southern Mexico by the Biden administration to Guatemala. 

Migrants cross the Rio Grande river near the US-Mexico border on September 20, 2021 Migrants cross the Rio Grande river near the US-Mexico border on September 20, 2021 Photo: AFP / PAUL RATJE