Thousands of Haitian migrants have sheltered under a bridge in Del Rio, Texas after a long and arduous journey to seek refuge in the United States.
The massive encampment of mostly Haitian migrants is expected to grow in the coming days as several thousand more continue their trek toward the border.
U.S. immigration officials announced plans on Friday to ramp up deportation flights to Haiti in effort to address the influx of migrants fleeing a series of deadly natural disasters, poverty and crime from South America and Haiti.
Why are so many Haitians at the border and how did they get there? Here’s what you need to know.
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How did so many Haitians end up in Mexico?
Many of the Haitians at the border did not come directly from their homeland, but started their journey from South America where they had been living for years, according to Homeland Security officials.
Thousands of Haitians fled Haiti years ago to seek refuse in Colombia, Brazil and Chile after seemingly nonstop patterns of natural disasters and political uprisings on the Caribbean island. After being unable to obtain legal status or land jobs, they then decided to move north toward the U.S.
Although some Haitians arrived at the border on foot, many expedited their arrival by taking buses.
Why Haitians migrants in Del Rio are being deported
Title 42, a sweeping public health order issued under the Trump administration, paved the way for most migrants to be quickly deported without being given an opportunity to claim asylum.
Although President Joe Biden vowed for a more humane approach at immigration, the order remained in place when he took office.
The U.S. has already deported more than thousands Haitians from Del Rio after last week’s announcement to increase weekly flights from the border from eight to 10.
Since Haitian migrants cannot be deported back to South America, they must be repatriated on planes back Haiti, Immigration and Customs Enforcement said.
In addition to being deported by the plane loads, Haitians were also being blocked from entering the encampment by Border Patrol agents on horseback, as seen in disturbing images that White House press secretary Jen Psaki said was "horrible to watch."
An investigation was launched by the Custom and Border Protection's Office of Professional Responsibility after an agent was seen in the photos with what appears to be horse reigns near Haitian migrants.
The Department of Homeland Security released a statement Monday night saying that the agency "does not tolerate the abuse of migrants in our custody and we take these allegations very seriously."
“Lateral flights” are also being used to increase deportation efforts at the border, in which migrants will be flown to other processing centers to alleviate overcrowding in Del Rio.
How many Haitians are at the border in Del Rio?
The U.S. is monitoring more than 15,000 Haitian migrants who arrived in Del Rio over the past week, according to the DHS.
Officials said tens of thousands more have already begun “staging” in various parts of the Latin America as a sign that they may soon depart toward the border in large numbers.
A senior DHS official said they are monitoring an additional 20,000 Haitian migrants in Colombia, 3,000 in Peru, and 1,500 in Panama.