The U.S. is flying Haitians who camped in a Texas border town, back to their homeland. The superpower is also blocking others from crossing the border from Mexico in a massive show of force that signals the beginning of what could be one of America’s swiftest, large-scale expulsions of migrants or refugees in decades.
More than 320 migrants arrived in Port-au-Prince on three flights on September 19, and Haiti said six flights were expected on September 21. In all, U.S. authorities moved to expel many of the 12,000 migrants camped around a bridge in Del Rio, Texas, after crossing from Ciudad Acuna, Mexico.
The U.S. plans to begin seven expulsion flights daily from September 22, four to Port-au-Prince, and three to Cap-Haitien, according to a U.S. official who was not authorized to discuss the matter publicly. Flights will continue to depart from San Antonio but authorities may add El Paso, the official said.
The only obvious parallel for such an expulsion without an opportunity to seek asylum was in 1992 when the Coast Guard intercepted Haitian refugees at sea, said Yael Schacher, senior U.S. advocate at Refugees International whose doctoral studies focused on the history of U.S. asylum law.
Similarly, large numbers of Mexican migrants were sent home during peak years of immigration but over land and not so suddenly.
Central Americans have also crossed the border in comparable numbers without being subject to mass expulsion, although Mexico has agreed to accept them from the U.S. under pandemic-related authority in effect since March 2020. Mexico does not accept expelled Haitians or people of other nationalities outside of Mexico, Guatemala, Honduras, and El Salvador.
When the border was closed on September 19, the migrants initially found other ways to cross nearby until they were confronted by federal and state law enforcement. An AP reporter saw Haitian immigrants still crossing the river into the U.S. about 1.5 miles (2.4 kilometers) east of the previous spot, but they were eventually stopped by Border Patrol agents on horseback and Texas law enforcement officials.
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