Hundreds of Haitian migrants have gone back to Mexico from the camp under a bridge in Del Rio, Texas, where many were staying in squalor as the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) began deportations this week.
A steady stream of mostly Haitian migrants made its way back across the Rio Grande on Monday, Reuters reported. Many feared being sent back to their home country, which has been shocked by a presidential assassination and a massive earthquake in recent months.
At one point, nearly 12,000 migrants were at the Del Rio camp. U.S. Border Patrol is aiming to deport the majority of these migrants, reportedly prioritizing single adults and families who don't declare asylum.
One Haitian migrant named Wildly Jeanmary told Reuters, "They can't send us back to Haiti because everyone knows what Haiti is like right now."
Jeanmary specifically cited the assassination of Haitian President Jovenel Moïse as reason for not wanting to go back to Haiti.
Many Haitian migrants who were in the Del Rio encampment have not been back to Haiti since 2010, having left the country after the 7.0 magnitude earthquake.
DHS began deporting Haitian migrants back to Port-au-Prince this week, with more than 300 migrants being sent back on Sunday alone. Beginning on Tuesday, Immigration and Customs Enforcement is expected to fly seven or eight planes to Haiti per day.
Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro MayorkasAlejandro MayorkasTop officials turn over Twitter accounts to 'share the mic' with Black cybersecurity experts Federal officers detail abuse described by asylum seekers Senate Republicans raise concerns about TSA cyber directives for rail, aviation MORE traveled to Del Rio on Monday to address the situation and receive an operational briefing.
Haitian officials have sent divided signals on the return of so many migrants, with acting Haitian Prime Minister Ariel Henry saying the country is prepared to welcome them back and Election Minister Mathias Pierre arguing the country is not prepared for such a large influx of people.
"We have the situation in the south with the earthquake. The economy is a disaster, (and) there are no jobs," Pierre said, according to The Associated Press. "The prime minister should negotiate with the U.S. government to stop those deportations in this moment of crises."