US officials are using color-coded tickets to grant Haitian migrants entry into the US, and are releasing many of the migrants at a gas station near the border that is used as a Greyhound bus stop.
Migrants with blue or yellow tickets, signifying families and pregnant women respectively, are being released, while single men with red passes and single women with green ones are slated for deportation, according to the Los Angeles Times.
Meanwhile, the Stripes gas station in Del Rio, Texas has become a major point for releasing those with blue or yellow tickets, as the business is used as a Greyhound stop for onward travel.
Large government-contracted buses drop off families twice a day at the gas station on a busy commercial road in the middle of town, according to the Washington Examiner.
A migrant mother carries her child while after being released at the Stripes gas station in Del Rio this week. The gas station is used as a Greyhound bus stop
A Haitian man in Mexico shows the blue ticket with the number he was given by authorities on the US side of the border. Unaware that blue and yellow tickets granted them entry into the US, many migrants with those tickets fled back to Mexico in fear of deportation to Haiti
Many migrants appear to be unaware of the meaning of the color-coded tickets, which are apparently not explained to them by authorities.
As the squalid migrant camp in Del Rio swelled to as many as 15,000 migrants last weekend, the Border Patrol issued them the color-coded, numbered tickets, then called their numbers and loaded them aboard buses and vans, some for expulsion flights, others for release.
Fearing deportation as the Biden administration began sending flights to Haiti, many migrants fled back across the border to Mexico, clutching the blue or yellow passes that would have allowed them to be quickly released.
Mackenson Veillard was one of them, and was dropped off at the Stripes gas station earlier this week with his pregnant wife.
They waited together for a Greyhound bus to take them to a cousin in San Antonio after receiving their color coded-tickets to enter the US.
The couple had spent a a week in the cramped migrant camp under the International Bridge, sleeping on concrete and getting by on bread and bottled water.
‘I felt so stressed,’ Veillard, 25, told the AP. ‘But now, I feel better. It’s like I’m starting a new life.’
The Val Verde Border Humanitarian Coalition has been providing support to migrants at the gas station, including running charter buses to Houston to supplement the Greyhound buses.
Mackenson Veillard ponders his good fortune as he waits at the Stripes gas station in Del Rio for a bus to take him and his pregnant wife to San Antonio after being released from CBP custody
Migrants seeking asylum in the U.S. board a bus to Houston after being released from U.S. Customs and Border Protection, in Del Rio on Thursday
A migrant woman receives her bus ticket before boarding a Greyhound bus to San Antonio, Texas on Wednesday in Del Rio, Texas
The Biden administration has released at least 2,000 of the migrants despite vowing to expel them at the height of the crisis. Deportation flights to Haiti were dramatically scaled back after violence on several of the flights, with migrants attacking ICE agents and pilots.
Homeland Security had planned to ramp up to seven daily flights but flew only three Wednesday and five Thursday because of issues with contractors and mechanical delays, an official said.
Seven flights were scheduled to Haiti on Friday, six on Saturday and seven on Sunday.
Most Haitians released from the Del Rio camp received requests to report to immigration officials at their destinations within 60 days. A few received notices to appear in immigration court on a specific date.
On Friday, only 225 migrants remained in the nearly empty camp where up to 15,000 had crammed in squalid conditions last weekend, according to Val Verde County Judge Lewis Owens.
Owens told the AP in a text message that he´s been told all of the migrants will be removed by the end of the day.
The camp’s population peaked Saturday as migrants driven by confusion over the Biden administration’s policies and misinformation on social media converged at the border crossing trying to seek asylum.
On Friday, only 225 migrants remained in the nearly empty camp where up to 15,000 had crammed in squalid conditions last weekend, according to Val Verde County Judge Lewis Owens
Migrants, many from Haiti, wait in lines to board buses under the Del Rio International Bridge on Friday
The camp in Del Rio is expected to be cleared by Saturday after thousands of migrants were released into the US
Official vehicles line a dirt road along the Rio Grande, Friday in Del Rio where they are on the lookout for illegal crossings
Across the Rio Grande, Haitians who camped in Mexico awoke Thursday surrounded by security forces, with a helicopter thundering overhead and state police trucks spaced every 30 feet or so between their tents and the edge of the river.
After anxious minutes of indecision, dozens of families hurried into the river to cross where there was only one municipal police vehicle, calculating it was better to take their chances with U.S. authorities.
‘Things are going badly,’ said Michou Petion, carrying her 2-year-old son toward the river. Her husband carried bags of belongings and several pairs of sneakers dangled around his neck.
‘The U.S. is deporting a lot to Haiti, now I don’t know if I can enter or leave,’ Petion said.
On Thursday, Rev. Al Sharpton toured the camp and claimed he witnessed ‘a real catastrophic and human disgrace.’
Sharpton’s press conference turned farcical however, as hecklers cut him short, accusing him of exploiting the crisis.
Sharpton was forced to end his speech after just over two minutes, as he was shouted down by furious hecklers with one yelling, ‘we don’t want your racism in Texas’.
Civil rights activist and MSNBC host Al Sharpton shut down a press conference at the southern border encampment in Del Rio, Texas Thursday after being consistently heckled
The protesters only got louder, crying that Del Rio was not a racist city and that ‘we don’t want your racism in Texas!’
President Joe Biden on Friday said it was ‘horrible’ to see the way agents used horses block people from crossing the Rio Grande and he promised that ‘people will pay’ as a result.
The incident prompted widespread outrage and is under investigation. The agents have been assigned to administrative duties and the Department of Homeland Security said it has suspended the use of horses in Del Rio.
‘It was horrible, what you saw to see them treat people like they did,’ Biden told reporters. ‘Those people will pay, there´s an investigation underway now and there will be consequences. … It´s an embarrassment, but it´s beyond an embarrassment – it´s dangerous, it´s wrong, it sends the wrong message around the world and sends the wrong message at home. It´s simply not who we are.’
Homeland Security has said that nearly 2,000 Haitians had been rapidly expelled on flights since Sunday under pandemic powers that deny people the chance to seek asylum.
About 3,900 were being processed for a possible return to Haiti or placement in U.S. immigration court proceedings.
Others have been released in the U.S. with notices to appear in court or to report to immigration authorities. Thousands have returned to Mexico.
Squalid Del Rio camp starts to be cleared as DHS chief finally admits 2,000 migrants have been released into the US but fails to address where up to 3,000 missing migrants are located
Aerial photos of the Haitian migrant camp in Del Rio along the Texas border taken less than a week apart show the drastic reduction in size.
As recently as this weekend, there were about 15,000 Haitians in Del Rio hoping to get asylum in the United States after they fled their country that has been torn apart by political turmoil following the Haitian president’s assassination and an earthquake that killed at least 2,200.
On Thursday, Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas said on CNN that as many as 2,000 Haitians had been released into the US pending hearings – but failed to identify where the remaining 3,000 are.
The revelation came after the DHS revealed that of the 15,000 total; 1,401 were sent back to Haiti on 12 flights, 3,206 remain in custody, and 5,000 are still camped out beneath the International Bridge in Del Rio, Texas.
This left 5,000 unaccounted for. Now Mayorkas appears to have addressed where 2,000 of them are, but that still leaves 3,000 missing from official figures.
Haitian migrants take shelter along the Del Rio International Bridge at sunset as they await to be processed after crossing the Rio Grande river into the U.S. from Ciudad Acuna in Del Rio, Texas on September 19
The area where about 14,000 mainly-Haitian migrants were camping along the Del Rio International Bridge is seen on Thursday. A large portion of the makeshift camp was cleared after as authorities continue to process and remove the people
Mayorkas was asked repeatedly about how many Haitians have been released into the US pending the outcome of their immigration proceedings – and repeatedly declined to provide a specific numerical figure.
‘We believe it is a very small percentage of the total that assembled in Del Rio Texas, and that will be removed,’ Mayorkas responded, on a day when the US special envoy for Haiti resigned in protest of US policy on deportations.
Rep. Tony Gonzales – a Texas Republican who whose district encompasses Del Rio – ripped Mayorkas and said he was trying to ‘bulls**t’ him.
‘No, don’t tell me, ‘Everything’s under control.’ It’s not under control,’ Gonzales told the Washington Examiner.
‘You can bulls**t somebody else, but you can’t bulls**t me,’ he told The Washington Examiner. ‘It was kind of like, dismissive a little bit, and that’s a problem, especially when you’re talking about national security. Like, there are no second chances. You have to get it right every single time, or it’s game over.’
Migrants seeking asylum in the U.S. cross the Rio Grande river into the U.S. after leaving a makeshift migrant camp
Migrants seeking asylum in the U.S. cross the Rio Grande river into the U.S. after leaving makeshift migrant camp in Braulio Fernandez Ecological Park in Ciudad Acuna, Mexico on Thursday
US Customs and Border Protection (CBP) agents on a boat rescue a Haitian migrant woman from the Rio Grande river at the Mex ico-US border near Ciudad Acuna, Coahuila state, Mexico on Thursday
Sources told the Washington Examiner that the Biden administration had set a deadline of Friday night to have the camp completely cleared.
The order from the West Wing reportedly came amid concerns over a Black Lives Matter protest scheduled to take place near the bridge this weekend.
‘They don’t want them all riled up,’ an official told the paper, referring to U.S. authorities and the Haitian migrants respectively.
An official also said the order to clear the camp was partly to resolve an ‘optics’ problem.
They want those people out from under that bridge so they can’t be seen anymore,’ they said. ‘It’s an optics thing. They are moving them around for process and release. They’re going to have everyone at the bridge gone in the next two days.’
Homeland Security had planned to ramp up to seven daily flights but flew only three Wednesday and five Thursday because of issues with contractors and mechanical delays, the official told the Associated Press.
Seven flights were scheduled to Haiti on Friday, six on Saturday and seven on Sunday.
During Thursday evening’s interview with CNN, interviewer Wolf Blitzer noted that about 15,000 Haitians had gathered and press Mayorkas to account for all 5,000.
Mayorkas ran through the numbers, and Blitzer followed up with, ‘What about the rest?’
DHS Secretary Mayorkas said Thursday that 10-15 percent of 15,000 Haitians gathered at the bridge in Del Rio, Texas have been released into the country pending their immigration hearings but failed to say where 3,000 unaccounted migrants are
‘If it’s 10 percent, or 15, I don’t have the precise numbers,’ Mayorkas responded. That would put the figure between 1,500 and 2,250 – although Mayorkas avoided specifics.
‘I assure you it’s a minority of the individuals, for the reasons that I have articulated, and they are placed in immigration enforcement proceedings, where they are able, where they appear before a judge. And if in fact they make a valid claim to remain in the United States, then of course, we honor that and if not they are removed as well,’ he continued.