Last Haitian migrants removed from Del Rio encampment, homeland security chief says

Mayorkas says 8,000 of 15,000 people have returned to Mexico while 5,000 are being processed by US officials

The last of up to 15,000 Haitian migrants have been cleared from their encampment underneath and near a bridge in Del Rio, Texas, the US homeland security secretary announced on Friday, ending one stage of a damaging episode for the Biden administration.

Repercussions continued at the end of a week that brought “horrifying” images of migrants being rounded up by border agents on horseback, and others of pregnant women and children without food or water in blazing desert heat.

“As of this morning, there are no longer any migrants at the camp underneath the Del Rio international bridge,” Alejandro Mayorkas said at a White House briefing, confirming that 2,000 migrants had been “repatriated” to Haiti on 17 flights.

About 8,000 had voluntarily returned to Mexico, he said, and about 5,000 were being processed by homeland security agents.

“Some have been returned to Haiti, indeed,” Mayorkas said. “Others have been moved to different processing facilities along the border in light of operational capacity. And then many of them will be returned to Haiti from there.

“If any of the exceptions apply they will not be returned to Haiti but placed in immigration enforcement proceedings. Some of them are detained, some of them are placed on alternatives to detention. We remain in touch with them, we monitor them to ensure their appearance in court at the designated time.”

The administration has faced blistering criticism for its handling of the crisis, from Republicans and Democrats including Julián Castro, a former presidential candidate and housing secretary under Barack Obama.

He told the Guardian in an interview he was “baffled” why Biden had said little about “images of Haitians being treated like animals”.

Castro said Biden risked the collapse of the coalition that helped to elect him if he didn’t live up to his campaign promise of “compassion and common sense” in immigration.

Mayorkas promised an investigation into conditions in Del Rio and treatment of those who were there.

“In the midst of meeting these challenges, we, our entire nation, saw horrifying images that do not reflect who we are, who we aspire to be, or the integrity and values of our truly heroic personnel in the Department of Homeland Security,” Mayorkas said.

“We know that those images painfully conjured up the worst elements of our nation’s ongoing battle against systemic racism.”

In response to a question about the scale of the inquiry, Mayorkas promised it would be far-reaching and probably uncomfortable, but said his department would have no problem making its findings public.

“I know how to maintain the integrity of an investigation, and this investigation will have integrity,” he said.


Richard Luscombe

The GuardianTramp

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