The AP cited an official who said that between five and eight flights per day would depart from various cities beginning Sunday, in an effort to relieve the pressure on local and federal officials in the city of Del Rio. It was not immediately clear from which cities the flights will depart from.
Over 13,000 migrants, the vast majority from Haiti, were estimated to have taken shelter under the International Bridge that connects Del Rio with Ciudad Acuna, Mexico as of Friday night — with hundreds more arriving daily.
Unable to purchase supplies in the US after wading across the knee-deep Rio Grande, they returned to Mexico briefly for food and cardboard before settling down under the bridge to await pickup by border authorities. Val Verde County Judge Lewis Owens told the AP that some families had been under the bridge for as long as six days. Trash piles are spread 10 feet wide, and at least two women have given birth, including one who tested positive for COVID-19 after being taken to a hospital, Owens reported.
On Friday, US Customs and Border Protection (CBP) announced that it was closing the Del Rio crossing “to respond to urgent safety and security needs.” Travelers were being directed to Eagle Pass, Texas, 57 miles away.
Haitians have been migrating to the US in large numbers from South America for several years, many of them having left the Caribbean nation after a devastating earthquake in 2010. After jobs dried up following the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, many made the dangerous trek by foot, bus and car to the US-Mexico border.
Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) blamed the Biden administration for the chaos, declaring;
“There were about 900 Haitians who were getting ready to board the flights when the political operatives in Washington canceled the flights,” Cruz claimed to Fox News’ Sean Hannity. “…700 people have grown to 10,500 because the word has gone out: If you’re from Haiti, Joe Biden and Kamala Harris have said, ‘We have open borders, come to Del Rio and they will let you in.'”
Opposingly, Edgar Rodríguez, lawyer for the Casa del Migrante migrant shelter in Piedras Negras, north of Del Rio, told the AP he noticed an increase of Haitians in the area two or three weeks ago and believes that misinformation may have played a part. Migrants often make decisions on false rumors that policies are about to change and that enforcement policies vary by city.
On Thursday, CBP confirmed that border officials had encountered 208,887 migrants at the southwestern frontier in August. That total, while slightly down from the 213,534 migrants encountered in July, marks the first time that more than 200,000 migrant encounters have been recorded in consecutive months since February and March 2000 (211,328 and 220,063, respectively).