WASHINGTON — The thousands of mostly Haitian migrants who had been encamped underneath a bridge in Del Rio, Texas, have been removed and either deported to Haiti or placed in immigration proceedings, Secretary of Homeland Security Alejandro Mayorkas said Friday.
“Today, we have no migrants remaining in the camp under the International Bridge,” he said. “Migrants continue to be expelled and under the CDC’s Title 42 authority. Title 42 is a public health authority and not an immigration policy, and it is important to note that Title 42 is applicable, and has been applicable, to all irregular migration.”
Of the approximately 15,000 migrants who arrived at the border in recent days, Mayorkas said, 2,000 were returned to Haiti on 17 flights under the policy called Title 42 which was invoked at the start of the Covid-19 pandemic that allows the administration to swiftly expel migrants. An additional 12,400 will remain in the country and have their asylum cases heard by a judge because of exemptions in that policy, which include those who have an “acute vulnerability,” like needing urgent medical care, or because of “operational capacity,” Mayorkas said.
“That means they go before an immigration judge in immigration court,” he said. “If they make a claim that they have a basis under law to remain in the United States, then the judge will hear and adjudicate that claim. If the judge determines that the claim is not valid, the individual will be removed.”
The Biden administration has been criticized for sending Haitian migrants, many who have been in Central American and South American countries for several years, back to Haiti when that country is dealing with a humanitarian crisis following a recent earthquake and a hurricane. The official response led the U.S. special envoy for Haiti, Daniel Foote, to resign Thursday over what he called the administration's "inhumane" treatment of Haitian migrants.
Mayorkas said nearly 30,000 migrants have been encountered by immigration officials since Sept. 9, with the highest number reaching approximately 15,000 at one point. He said 8,000 of those migrants returned to Mexico on their own.
Of the more than 12,000 not expelled to Haiti and placed into immigration proceedings, he said some of them are in detention while others are placed in “alternatives to detention.”
“We remain in touch with them. We monitor them, to ensure their appearance in court at the designated time of appearance,” Mayorkas said.