DEL RIO, Texas – No migrants remained Friday at the Texas border encampment where almost 15,000 people – most of them Haitians – had converged just days earlier seeking asylum, local and federal officials said.
It's a dramatic change from last Saturday, when the number peaked as migrants driven by confusion over the Biden administration's policies and misinformation on social media converged at the border crossing connecting Del Rio, Texas, and Ciudad Acuņa, Mexico.
At a news conference, Del Rio Mayor Buno Lozano called it “phenomenal news.”
Many 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. The devastating 2010 earthquake forced many of them from their homeland.
The United States and Mexico appeared eager to end the increasingly politicized 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.
On Friday, President Joe Biden said the way the agents used their horses was “horrible” and that “people will pay” as a result. The agents have been assigned to administrative duties while the administration investigates.
Mayorkas said about 2,000 Haitians have been rapidly expelled on 17 flights since Sunday and more could be expelled in coming days under pandemic powers that deny people the chance to seek asylum.
He said the U.S. has allowed about 12,400 to enter the country, at least temporarily, while they make claims before an immigration judge to stay in the country under the asylum laws or for some other legal reason. They could ultimately be denied and would be subject to removal.
Mayorkas said about 5,000 are in DHS custody and being processed to determine whether they will be expelled or allowed to press their claim for legal residency. Some returned to Mexico.
A U.S. official with direct knowledge of the situation said six flights were scheduled to Haiti on Friday, with seven planned Saturday and six Sunday, though that was subject to change. The official was not authorized to speak publicly.