Haitian families wait, survive, hope for asylum in Del Rio, Texas camp

DEL RIO — A man in a Lakers jersey sat on an overturned five-gallon bucket in a camp on the U.S. bank of the Rio Grande. He nuzzled a baby, their eyes shut in tenderness.

A little girl wearing a diaper, flip-flops and pink Paw Patrol T-shirt wandered between tents fashioned from Carrizo cane. She carried a pouch of Mexican-brand formula and gleefully spooned its contents into her mouth.

As of Tuesday evening, when the Texas Department of Public Safety provided media access, there were roughly 8,600 people in the makeshift camp, in squalor, along the banks of the river dividing Del Rio, Texas, from Ciudad Acuña in Mexico. They were mostly Haitian migrants waiting to seek refuge or asylum in the United States.

A father nuzzles his child while interacting with his children in the migrant camp beneath Del Rio's International Bridge Tuesday Sept. 21, 2021. About 8,600 people were still awaiting processing by U.S. immigration officials, many of them families with small children.

Above all, they were families.

Families lined up at a steel tanker to fill plastic jugs with potable water, who draped clothes over the cane supports of their lean-to shelters, roofed with fronds and blankets. Families who, despite the Biden administration's decision to return hundreds of the migrants to Haiti, had decided to stay. To wait and see.

More from Del Rio:Haitian migrants face tough choices in Del Rio amid crackdown at Texas-Mexico border

It was an hour before sunset: bath time for many children who submitted to a cursory washing.

The night would come, darkness interrupted by the glow from U.S. government generators, cellphone screens and the international bridge above them.

Haitians line up to fill containers with fresh water from a tanker truck beside their camp beneath Del Rio's International Bridge Tuesday Sept. 21, 2021

Border Patrol, National Guard and Texas state police surrounded the camp with vehicles and stood guard.

A Haitian man in a T-shirt and jeans spoke in English from behind the yellow caution tape that roped off the camp. He asked out loud to anyone who would listen:

"What do you think about all this? What do you think should be done?"

Photographer Ronald W. Erdrich reported from Del Rio.

Lauren Villagran can be reached at [email protected].

More:Mexican government cracks down on Haitian migrants in Ciudad Acuña

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