Desperate Haitians carrying children are wading through the neck-high waters of the Rio Grande river to try to reach Texas — as the US has begun the largest expulsion of migrants or refugees in decades.
More than 320 migrants were flown back to Haiti’s capital Port-au-Prince on three flights Sunday, and US authorities say they plan to expel the more than 12,600 migrants camped around a bridge in Del Rio, Texas.
But photographs at the crossing from Ciudad Acuña, Mexico show people still streaming in late Sunday — with many taking more dangerous risks to evade officials, some of who were on horseback using what appeared to be lariats as whips to keep them at bay.
Dramatic images showed some making the crossing while holding up young children — with one man holding a scared-looking girl on his right shoulder as the water came up to his neck.
Another held a diaper-wearing baby just above the water which was up to their chest.
Many tried crossing the river into the US about 1.5 miles east of the previous spot, but they were eventually stopped by Border Patrol agents on horseback and Texas law enforcement officials.
Agents yelled at the migrants who were crossing in the waist-deep river to get out of the water — with Reuters reporters seeing mounted officers wearing cowboy hats and vests emblazoned with “POLICE U.S. BORDER PATROL” blocking their path.
The wire service saw one officer unfurl a cord resembling a lariat like a whip, forcing one crossing immigrant to tumble back into the water.
In another incident, the same officer grabbed the back of the shirt of a migrant trying to run up the bank with bags of food, Reuters said.
The several hundred who had successfully crossed and were sitting along the river bank on the US side were ordered to the Del Rio camp.
But they will not be there for long, Border Patrol Chief Raul L. Ortiz said Sunday. Since Friday, some 3,300 migrants have already been removed from the Del Rio camp to planes or detention centers — with the aim for them all to be gone by the end of the week.
“Over the next 6 to 7 days our goal is to process the 12,662 migrants that we have underneath that bridge as quickly as we possibly can,” Ortiz said.
“What we want to make sure is that we deter the migrants from coming into the region so we can manage the folks that are under the bridge at this point.”
The massive show of force will be one of America’s swiftest, large-scale expulsions of migrants or refugees in decades, The Associated Press noted.
The only obvious parallel for such an expulsion without an opportunity to seek asylum was in 1992 when the Coast Guard intercepted Haitian refugees at sea, said Yael Schacher, senior U.S. advocate at Refugees International.
The rapid expulsions were made possible by a pandemic-related authority adopted 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.
President Joe Biden exempted unaccompanied children from the order but let the rest stand.
Haitians have been migrating in large numbers for several years, many having left their Caribbean nation after a devastating 2010 earthquake.
That has now increased since the latest devastating earthquake, as well as the uptick in violence blamed on political instability following the assassination of President Jovenel Moïse.
“In Haiti, there is no security,” said Fabricio Jean, a 38-year-old Haitian who arrived in Texas with his wife and two daughters. “The country is in a political crisis.”
Mackenley Pearre, 25, left impoverished Haiti in July with his cousin, wife and 2-year-old daughter due to the worsening violence and inability to find work as an electrician.
“You have to do something to not die of hunger,” he said.
With Post wires