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Published: 14:11, September 28, 2021 | Updated: 14:24, September 28, 2021
Mixed fate for Haitian migrants on US quest
By Heng Weili in New York
Published:14:11, September 28, 2021 Updated:14:24, September 28, 2021 By Heng Weili in New York

Up to 12,000 let in, senior official says, but almost as many turned away

In this Sept 23, 2021 file photo, migrants, most from Haiti, cross the Rio Grande towards Del Rio, Texas, from Ciudad Acuña, Mexico. (FELIX MARQUEZ / AP)

Thousands of Haitians who crossed the US border from Mexico in recent weeks have been released into the United States, the homeland security chief confirmed as anger simmers over the rough treatment meted out to migrants by border officers.

Some 12,400 migrants from the Caribbean nation are having their cases heard by immigration judges, and the cases of a further 5,000 are being processed, Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas said on Sunday. About 3,000 Haitians have been detained.

Biden and his administration owns a crisis that they’ve created

Tim Scott, US Republican senator

"Approximately, I think it's about 10,000 or so, 12,000," Mayorkas told Fox News Sunday when asked how many of the migrants have been released.

He said that about 4,000 migrants have been repatriated to Haiti under an administrative process called Title 42, part of a US public health code that then-president Donald Trump put to use in the early stages of the COVID-19 pandemic and which his successor, Joe Biden, has kept in place.

Mayorkas said that those who have been released "are monitored by us", and authorities "ensure their appearance in court as the law requires".

Fox News Sunday host Chris Wallace said that, according to the Department of Justice, 44 percent of migrants who are released do not show up for court hearings.

When asked if many of those released will stay in the US, Mayorkas said he had faith in the system.

"We have enforcement guidelines in place that provide the individuals who are recent border-crossers who do not show up for their hearings are enforcement priorities and will be removed," he said.

The situation facing the migrants on the border, and in the Texas city of Del Rio in particular, has provoked a backlash among people against the Biden administration.

The administration has confirmed that about 30,000 Haitians have crossed into Del Rio since Sept 9. They camped under an international bridge that leads to Ciudad Acuna in Mexico. The encampment has since been cleared.

Controversial images of US Border Patrol officers on horseback appearing to threaten the migrants and the decision to deport thousands back to Haiti ignited widespread fury.

In addition to the 12,400 who are being allowed to plead their case before a US judge, around 2,000 people were returned to Haiti on expulsion flights, and an estimated 8,000 have voluntarily returned to Mexico.

Wallace asked why the migrants were not stopped at the border and why the US does not have a physical barrier in place.

"We do not agree with the building of the wall," Mayorkas said. "The law provides that individuals can make a claim for humanitarian relief. That is actually one of our proudest traditions."

Controversial images

Mayorkas also was asked about the assertion that Border Patrol officers had used whip-like actions against the migrants, after some prominent politicians said a photograph of an officer holding the reins of his horse while chasing someone near the border looked like he was holding a whip. The horse patrols have since been suspended.

The secretary said that the images "painfully conjured up the worst elements of our nation's ongoing battle against systemic racism". But the photographer who took the photos said that he never saw "them (the agents) whip anyone".

Biden, speaking to reporters at the White House on Friday, said: "It's horrible what you saw. To see people like they did, with horses, running them over, people being strapped, it's outrageous."

A probe within the Department of Homeland Security into border officers' treatment of migrants was underway and was expected to be concluded soon. The use of horse patrols has already been suspended in Del Rio, department officials said on Thursday.

Politicians have seized on the situation to batter the Democratic president, with Senator Tim Scott accusing Biden of failing to secure the border.

"I think President Biden and his administration owns a crisis that they've created," Scott told the CBS network on Sunday.

Representative Maxine Waters, a California Democrat, has called the border officers' activities "worse" than slavery.

Many of the Haitians who have traveled to the US border were coming from South America.

Tens of thousands of Haitians journeyed to Chile, Brazil and other South American countries after a 2010 earthquake near Port-au-Prince killed more than 220,000 people.

Daniel Foote, the US special envoy to Haiti appointed two months ago, resigned on Thursday over the Biden administration's "inhumane" decision to deport thousands of Haitians.

In his resignation letter to Secretary of State Antony Blinken, Foote, a career diplomat, said the US approach to Haiti "remains deeply flawed".

The White House has defended its policy and insists the administration is working to implement an "orderly and humane process" at its southern border, according to a report on the news website The Hill.

US-Mexico border arrests have reportedly stayed at the highest level in more than two decades, with more than 208,000 registered in August alone, according to Xinhua reports.

Agencies and Xinhua contributed to this story.


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