WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW:
- Nearly 14,000 migrants, mostly Haitians, were crowded under a bridge outside the border community of Del Rio.
- The migrants, which started to grow on Thursday, were living in makeshift camps, sleeping in the dirt, without scarce supply of food and water.
- Homeland Security said that expulsion and deportation flights to Haiti will continue.
Thousands of migrants were crowded in the makeshift camp under the Del Rio International Bridge, huddling in squalid conditions.
They sleep in the dirt, surrounded by growing piles of garbage, exposed to the elements and without much food and water in hopes of being processed by the overwhelmed US Border Patrol.
“These people are desperate … and they’re determined to get here,” said Val Verde County Sheriff Joe Frank Martinez.
The number of migrants, mostly Haitians, gathered in the temporary site has swelled from roughly 400 one week ago to around 13,990 on Friday in a mounting immigration crisis for the Biden administration.
Haiti is reeling from a major earthquake that left more than 2,000 people dead and thousands more injured, as well as from the assassination of President Jovenel Moise in July.
Many Haitians are believed to have been living in South America after the 2010 earthquake in Haiti but the economic toll of the pandemic on the region fueled migration to the US southern border.
Under a public health order linked to the coronavirus pandemic, border agents have the authority to turn away adults and migrant families. But a federal judge ruled Thursday that the Biden administration will no longer be allowed to apply the order to migrant families with children.
A Homeland Security official said Thursday that expulsion and deportation flights to Haiti will continue. Border crossings have reached the highest level in decades, with US Customs and Border Protection reporting more than 208,000 in August alone and a total this fiscal year of more than 1.5 million.
Del Rio Mayor Bruno Lozano, a Democrat, has asked the Biden administration for additional resources and manpower, saying that it could take weeks to process the migrants now amassed at the border.
“The Border Patrol is unfortunately strained to its limit, beyond limit,” he said.
In a statement, the Border Patrol said it was boosting the number of agents in the area to “immediately address the current level of migrant encounters and to facilitate a safe, humane and orderly process.”
The shaded area is being used as a temporary staging site to “prevent injuries from heat-related illness” while migrants wait to be taken into custody, according to the Border Patrol. More drinking water, food, towels and portable toilets were being delivered, the agency said.
On Friday, CBP said that the Office of Field Operations Del Rio Port of Entry will temporarily close and re-route traffic from Del Rio to Eagle Pass. The temporary closure and shift “is necessary in order for CBP to respond to urgent safety and security needs presented by an influx of migrants into Del Rio and is effective immediately,” they said.
Most of the migrants will be expelled or placed in removal proceedings, according to federal officials.