US launches mass removal of Haitian migrants from Texas, to expel over 12,000 people

Haitians who were deported from the United States deplane at the Toussaint Louverture International Airport, in Port au Prince, Haiti, Sunday, Sep. 19, 2021. Thousands of Haitian migrants have been arriving to Del Rio, Texas, to ask for asylum in the U.S., as authorities begin to deported them to back to Haiti. (AP Photo/Joseph Odelyn)

The United States flew Haitians camped in a Texas border town back to their homeland Sunday and attempted to prevent others from crossing from Mexico in a massive show of force. It signaled the start of what could be one of America’s large-scale expulsions of migrants or refugees in decades, according to the Associated Press.

More than 320 migrants arrived in Port-au-Prince on three aircraft, with six more scheduled on Tuesday. Overall, officials in the United States proceeded to evict many of the more than 12,000 migrants who had gathered around a bridge in Del Rio, Texas, after crossing from Ciudad Acua, Mexico.

On Wednesday, the United States planned to launch seven daily deportation flights, four to Port-au-Prince and three to Cap-Haitien. Flights will continue to depart from San Antonio, but officials may expand to El Paso, according to a U.S. official.

According to Yael Schacher, senior U.S. advocate at Migrants International, the only evident analogue for such an expulsion without an opportunity to request asylum was in 1992, when the Coast Guard intercepted Haitian refugees at sea.

Central Americans have likewise crossed the border in comparable numbers without being subjected to mass expulsion. Outside of Mexico, Guatemala, Honduras, and El Salvador, Mexico does not accept expelled Haitians or persons of other nations.

When the border was blocked on Sunday, the migrants attempted to cross elsewhere until they were challenged by federal and state law officials. An Associated Press reporter observed Haitian immigrants crossing the river into the United States some 1.5 miles (2.4 kilometers) east of the previous location, but they were eventually halted by authorities.

Mexico announced on Sunday that it would begin deporting Haitians back to their home country. According to a government official, the flights will depart from towns near the US border and the Guatemalan border, where the majority of the refugees are still present.

Six flights were scheduled in Haiti on Tuesday — three in Port-au-Prince and three in the northern city of Cap-Haitien, said Jean Négot Bonheur Delva, Haiti’s migration director.

The rapid expulsions were made possible by former President Donald Trump in March 2020 that allows for migrants to be immediately removed from the country without an opportunity to seek asylum.

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