Workers clear debris from the premises of a makeshift border migrant camp along the International Bridge in Del Rio, Texas, the United States, September 24, 2021.
Adrees Latif | Reuters
No migrants remain in a border camp under a bridge in Del Rio, Texas, where thousands, most of them Haitian nationals, have gathered in the past few days, Alejandro Mayorkas, minister of Homeland Security, said at a press conference at the White House Friday .
The announcement comes as the Biden administration comes under widespread criticism for its handling of spikes in migration on the U.S.-Mexico border.
According to Mayorkas, US authorities have met nearly 30,000 migrants in Del Rio since September 9. At one point 15,000 migrants, mostly Haitians, were encamped under the bridge connecting Del Rio with Ciudad Acuna, Mexico. Yesterday the administration announced that there were fewer than 5,000 people in the camp.
“As of this morning, there have been no more migrants in the camp under the Del Rio International Bridge,” Mayorkas said in the White House.
According to Mayorkas, around 2,000 Haitian nationals were returned to Haiti on 17 return flights organized by DHS.
An estimated 8,000 returned to Mexico voluntarily and more than 5,000 are being processed by the DHS to determine whether they should be placed in immigration deportation proceedings or through a public health law known as Title 42, Mayorkas said.
About 12,400 migrants will eventually be tried by an immigration judge who will decide whether to deport them or stay in the US, he added.
Title 42, first introduced by former President Donald Trump at the start of the pandemic, denies certain migrants the opportunity to apply for asylum. Mayorkas defended the Biden government’s policy of sending Haitian nationals back to Haiti.
“We are doing this out of a public health need. It is not an immigration policy,” Mayorkas said, noting that Title 42 is not specific to Haitian migrants. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention decided in August that Title 42 would remain in effect until it is determined that there is no longer any risk of Covid-19 being brought across the border into the United States
U.S. Secretary of Homeland Security Alejandro Mayorkas discusses the investigation into the treatment of Haitian migrants while speaking on Jan.
Evelyn Hockstein | Reuters
Mayorkas also condemned the scenes in numerous photos and videos showing border guards on horseback snatching Haitian migrants trying to enter the US, which prompted the Biden government to stop the use of horses by agents in Del Rio on Thursday to adjust.
“These images have painfully conjured up the worst elements of our nation’s ongoing struggle against systemic racism,” Mayorkas said, adding that they “raised serious questions about what happened”.
The DHS has opened an investigation into the events captured in the photos and videos, Mayorkas said. The agents involved are entrusted with administrative duties and will not interact with migrants during the investigation, he added.
Earlier on Friday, President Joe Biden beat up border guards for their treatment of Haitian migrants in Del Rio and vowed that they will have consequences for their actions.
“It’s horrible what you’ve seen. To see people like her, with horses running over them, people buckled up, is outrageous,” Biden said at the White House.
“I promise you these people will pay. There is an investigation going on and there will be consequences, ”he said.
When asked about the president’s promise to punish the agents, Mayorkas said he would “let the investigation run its course”.
“I know the President was reflecting the sentiments of American public reaction, pictures and what those pictures suggest, but I want to suggest that this investigation will be based on facts that investigators learn,” Mayorkas said.