US closes part of Texas border, begins flying Haitians home
DEL RIO, Texas (AP) — The United States acted Sunday to stem the flow of migrants into Texas by blocking the Mexican border at an isolated town where thousands of Haitian refugees set up a camp, and American officials began flying some of the migrants back to their homeland.
About a dozen Texas Department of Public Safety vehicles lined up near the bridge and river where Haitians have been crossing from Ciudad Acuña, Mexico, into Del Rio, Texas, for almost three weeks.
The migrants initially found other ways to cross nearby until they were confronted by federal and state law enforcement.
An Associated Press reporter saw Haitian immigrants still crossing the river into the US about 1.5 miles east of the previous spot, but they were eventually stopped by Border Patrol agents on horseback and Texas law enforcement officials.
As they crossed, some Haitians carried boxes on their heads filled with food.
Some removed their pants before getting into the river and carried them.
Others were unconcerned about getting wet.
Agents yelled at the migrants who were crossing in the waist-deep river to get out of the water.
The several hundred who had successfully crossed and were sitting along the river bank on the US side were ordered to the Del Rio camp.
“Go now,” agents yelled.
Mexican authorities in an airboat told others trying to cross to go back into Mexico.
Migrant Charlie Jean had crossed back into Ciudad Acuña from the camps to get food for his wife and three daughters, ages 2, 5 and 12.
He was waiting on the Mexican side for a restaurant to bring him an order of rice.
“We need food for every day. I can go without, but my kids can't,” said Jean, who had been living in Chile for five years before beginning the trek north to the US.
It was unknown if he made it back across and to the camp.
Mexico said Sunday it would also begin deporting Haitians to their homeland. A government official said the flights would be from towns near the US border and the border with Guatemala, where the largest group remains.
Haitians have been migrating to the US in large numbers from South America for several years, many having left their Caribbean nation after a devastating 2010 earthquake.
After jobs dried up from the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, many made the dangerous trek by foot, bus and car to the US border, including through the infamous Darien Gap, a Panamanian jungle.
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