EL PASO, Texas (Border Report) – Federal imimgration authorities from the El Paso Sector on Wednesday deported a large group of Haitian migrants to Mexico, and later two Mexican minors.
The deportations took place even as local officials in South Texas told reporters that the U.S. government is ending a Trump administration ban on “catch and release.” Reports say migrants in the McAllen area are already being released from custody and taken to bus stations.
But in El Paso, 86 people, many of them citizens of Haiti were deported to Mexico over the Zaragoza International Bridge early Wednesday. The previous day, another 54 migrants were sent back to Mexico. U.S. Border Patrol spokesman Landon Hutchens said both groups were expelled under the Center for Disease Control and Prevention Title 42 emergency order to slow the spread of COVID-19.
Since the pandemic struck, more than 61,000 unauthorized migrants have been detained in the El Paso Sector, the spokesman said.
The migrants had entered the country only days prior.
“They didn’t give us an option. They sent us here with only the clothes on our backs. … Men, women, children,” said Jean Marcelino, one of the deported Haitians. He said he and his family of four attempted to cross the U.S. border this week after not being able to find work in Mexico.
“Now we’re here, out on the street. I don’t know how we’re going to feed ourselves, where we’re going to sleep,” said Marcelino, who speaks both French and Spanish.
Marcelino and his family, as well as about a dozen other Haitians huddled under a staircase next to a grocery store, complaining about being penniless, hungry and thirsty.
An official with Juarez’s Migrant Assistance Center met with the Haitians south of the Zaragoza Bridge and offered hope.
“We will take you to shelters,” said Dirving Garcia, coordinator of the Migrant Assistance Center. “You will stay for two weeks to prevent the spread of COVID. Then you will go to another shelter. We will not separate families, but two to three families may go to one center and two to three may go to another.”
Later in the day, Border Report witnessed two young men, both appearing to be 14 or 15 years old, being handed over by Border Patrol to Mexican immigration officers at the Paso del Norte port of entry.
KTSM on Wednesday spoke with migrant advocates in El Paso who also said they’re not aware of any immediate change in U.S. immigration protocols.
President Biden this week issued an executive order which, among other things, revokes the April 2018 Trump administration memorandum ending “catch and release.”
The order further states that the Secretary of State, the Attorney General, and the Secretary of Homeland Security shall “promptly take steps to rescind any agency memoranda or guidance issued in reliance on or in furtherance of any directive revoked by […] of this order.” It doesn’t specify a time table.
Enrique Valenzuela, head of the Chihuahua Population Council that oversees migrant shelters south of the border, said Mexican authorities have not been informed of any changes in U.S. border policy. Which they expect they should, as what one country decides to do with its migrant population affects the other country.
“At this point we don’t know of any new measures by the new (Biden) administration. At this point things are still the way they were before. People on MPP are still waiting for their new court dates and people are still being returned under Title 42 to Juarez,” Valenzuela.
The Mexican officials said he was concerned that any preliminary announcement or unconfirmed information might spur more immigration from Central America to the U.S.-Mexico border.
“Telling people that new policies will be or are being implemented (in the United States) to take them in when this is not happening may cause a complicated situation south of the border,” Valenzuela said. “We know for a fact this is not happening, not at this time.”
Migrant advocates in El Paso, whose capacity to assist migrants was overrun during the fall 2018 surge from Central America, told KTSM that Tamaulipas state authorities might be the ones refusing to receive deported women and children caught by U.S. authorities in South Texas.
Tamaulipas is dealing with a security crisis, as the Gulf and Northeast cartels are embroiled in a deadly struggle not only over drug routes to the United States, but also migrant-smuggling rights. The cartels are being blamed for horrific massacres over the past 10 years and are suspected in last month’s killing and burning of 19 people, at least some of them Guatemalan migrants.
The territorial fight has also apparently corrupted local law enforcement, as 12 Tamaulipas police officers are suspected of being involved in last month’s massacre.
Mexican officials in Juarez said they, too, believe it’s a local phenomenon, at least so far.
“Of course, is it in our interest to go to the United States, when possible, but it an orderly manner. It is worrying to use that unofficial information may cause people to get overexcited and try to get into the United States now,” Valenzuela said.