Haitian migrants exposed trouble with U.S. border’s no-man’s lands

The arrival in recent days of 15,000 Haitian immigrants at the U.S.-Mexico border near Del Rio, Texas, has been a decade in the making.

But it's these last three weeks that puzzled some: How were the migrants able to breach the U.S. border and amass so quickly?

Images of the migrants wading across the Rio Grande in recent days are a reminder of how permeable the U.S. border can be. It's also shown how the land between the river and a border wall can become a no-man's land.

Just a third of the 2,000-mile border with Mexico has some kind of barrier, and about half of those barriers are designed only to stop vehicles. People on foot can easily circumvent them.

It's not known what ultimately brought the refugees to the encampment under a bridge in Del Rio this month, but it's likely trudging across the Rio Grande and along the river's banks was not the most taxing part of their 11-year odyssey.

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Although the government began using Title 42 to quickly return migrants to Mexico or their country of origin during the pandemic, it is lawful to claim asylum at or between a port of entry. 

The topography — mountains or wider parts of the Rio Grande — along some portions of the U.S.-Mexico border make it nearly impossible to cross. The river and its adjacent land in Del Rio area may have actually helped to compound this crisis.

The border fencing in the Del Rio area is about a half mile from the Rio Grande, which allowed the migrants to cross the river into the U.S. and encamp under the Del Rio International Bridge. The border fence, though, stopped the migrants from traveling further into the U.S.

The border fence in Del Rio is a black, slatted fence about 12 feet tall. Texas Gov. Greg Abbott has authorized the construction of a chain-link fence on the Del Rio-Mexico border, as well. Most of that fence will be will be within feet of the river. 

The number of migrants — most from Haiti — encamped under the Del Rio International Bridge grew to 15,000 last weekend. Del Rio Mayor Bruno Lozano told reporters Friday that all of the migrants had been cleared from the camp.

Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas said Friday that the majority of the migrants have returned to Mexico voluntarily. Where the migrants have all gone, according to Mayorkas: 

Contributing: Mabinty Quarshie, Javonte Anderson, the Associated Press



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