Mexican forces surround border migrant camp
CIUDAD ACUÑA, Mexico (AP) - A camp where just a few days ago more than 14,000 migrants were waiting along the Texan border was dramatically smaller at dawn on Thursday, while Haitian migrants across the river in Mexico were in a growing Camp surrounded by security forces woke up a helicopter thundered overhead.
Both governments appeared eager to end the increasingly politicized humanitarian situation on the border, even if the US displacement of Haitians to their troubled homeland caused a setback for President Joe Biden's administration.
The Biden government's special envoy for Haiti, Daniel Foote, submitted a letter of resignation protesting the "inhuman" large-scale evictions of Haitian migrants, US officials said Thursday.
In Mexico, migrants who camped in a park next to the river in Ciudad Acuña found state police vehicles between their tents and the water's edge about every nine meters. Still, after anxious minutes of indecision, dozens of families decided to rush into the river and cross where there was only one urban police vehicle, thinking it was better to take their risk with U.S. authorities.
The entrance to the park was barred and National Guard troops and immigration officers waited outside along with three buses. A helicopter flew overhead.
The usual early morning buzz of the camp ceased as the migrants tried to decide what to do.
Guileme Paterson, a 36-year-old Haitian, looked dazed. “It's a difficult moment,” she said before crossing the Rio Grande with her husband and four children.
The operation by the Mexican authorities appeared to be aimed at driving the migrants back across the river to Texas. A fence and a number of state police vehicles led the migrants back to the border crossing they had been using all week.
The waiting buses remained empty.
“Bad, bad, bad, it's not going well,” said Michou Petion, carrying her two-year-old son in his arms to the river. Her husband carried bags of her belongings and had several pairs of sneakers dangling around his neck.
"The US is smuggling a lot into Haiti, now I don't know whether I can enter or leave the country," said Petion.
On the US side, the government had accelerated its efforts to clear the camp in the past few days, releasing many migrants with instructions that they would later appear before the immigration authorities and having flown hundreds of Haitians back to their country.
According to some estimates, the camp held more than 14,000 people over the weekend. Texas Governor Greg Abbott said during a visit to Del Rio Tuesday that the county’s top official had told him the latest number was about 8,600 migrants. The US authorities have refused to say how many have been released in the US in the past few days.
The Department of Homeland Security has moved Haitians from Del Rio, a town of 35,000, to El Paso, Laredo and the Rio Grande Valley along the Texas border and added flights to Tucson, Arizona this week, the official said. At these locations, they are processed by the Border Patrol.
Meanwhile, Foote, who was appointed US envoy to Haiti as recently as July, wrote to Secretary of State Antony Blinken that he would resign immediately "with deep disappointment and apologies to those seeking decisive change."
“I will not be associated with the inhumane, counterproductive decision by the United States to deport thousands of Haitian refugees and illegal immigrants to Haiti, a country where American officials are safe because of the threat that armed gangs pose to daily life Land is restricted, ”he said wrote. "Our political approach to Haiti remains very flawed and my policy recommendations have been ignored and rejected if not edited to project a different narrative than mine."
The professional diplomat is known to be deeply frustrated by what he believed to be a lack of urgency in Washington and an ice age pace in efforts to improve conditions in Haiti.
At least one senior official in Haiti hailed Foote's resignation when he accused the U.S. Border Protection Agency of violating the rights of Haitian migrants.
"This is the first time that we have seen a US diplomat who made a decision against the will of the US government," Mathias Pierre, Haiti's election minister, told The Associated Press. "We welcome that."
He urged the US government to improve its treatment of migrants and asked why it was so focused on deportation.
Julio Cortez reported from Del Rio, Texas. AP journalists Joshua Goodman in Miami, Matthew Lee in New York, Danica Coto in San Juan, Puerto Rico, contributed to this story.
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