Some migrants laid on ground or on plastic paint containers, while others dried their clothes on the bamboo-like carrizocane.
All were waiting to find out their fate at the dramatically reduced Texas border encampment , where nearly 15,000 migrants had gathered only days ago under a bridge that connected Del Rio, Texas, with Ciudad Acuna in Mexico.
According to Department of Homeland Security officials, there were still approximately 4,000 migrants on Thursday. On Saturday, the number reached a peak as migrants drove by confusion about the policies of the Biden administration and misinformation on social networks converged on the crossing.
The United States and Mexico seemed eager to end the increasingly polarized humanitarian situation, which prompted the resignation by the U.S. special representative to Haiti and new condemnation from Rev. Al Sharpton and UNICEF.
DHS officials stated that approximately 1,400 migrants were sent to Haiti by 13 flights. They were quickly expelled under Title 42, the pandemic public healthcare authority. DHS officials spoke on condition of anonymity to inform journalists about the ongoing operation.
Late Wednesday, Mexico's immigration agency estimated that there were 600 migrants in Ciudad Acuna. While the riverside camp seemed to have held that many, other migrants were scattered throughout the city in hotels or private homes. Officials from the city said Wednesday that Mexican authorities had taken 250 Haitian migrants out of the city since Sunday night. However, the claim that "several thousand" migrants were returning to Mexico from Del Rio camp seems exaggerated.
Haitians camping in Mexico were surrounded by security forces on Thursday morning, with a helicopter thundering overhead. State police trucks were also spaced out every 30 feet between their tents to the water's edge.
After anxious minutes of indecision, many families raced into the river to cross it at a point where only one police vehicle was available. They decided that it was better to try their luck with U.S. authorities.
Guileme Paterson (36-year-old Haitian woman) appeared confused. Before she began to cross Rio Grande with her husband, and their four children, she said "It's a difficult time."
Michou Petion carried her 2-year-old son, Michou, in her arms towards the river. Her husband was carrying bags full of belongings, as well as several pairs of sneakers that he had dangled around the neck.
Petion stated that the U.S. was deporting a lot of Haitians, and now she doesn't know if they will allow her to enter or leave.
Officials from the Texas Department of Public Safety allowed journalists to visit camp on Thursday, but they did not allow them to speak to migrants. U.S. officials stated that food, shelter, and medical care were being provided for those who remained.
Two men in an ATV with the words "Homeland Security", riding on it, approached a group holding babies and said, in Spanish, "We have food for them."
The low dam used to cross Mexico into the U.S. was shut down and workers gathered up piles of broken belongings including cellphone chargers, clothing, and Styrofoam containers.
Sharpton claimed Thursday that he visited the camp and saw "a real catastrophic, human disgrace." Some protesters, some sporting camouflage hats worn by former President Donald Trump, shouted through Sharpton's entire remarks.
"Del Rio does not have a racist population. Del Rio is a caring, loving community," one protester shouted as Sharpton spoke to reporters.
Some Haitians have been allowed to temporarily remain in the U.S. to seek asylum, or to claim another claim to residency. Notices will be sent later to immigration authorities. Officials from DHS declined to give details but stated that they were people with "vulnerabilities" which could mean they have children, are pregnant, or the U.S. has no capacity to detain them, especially during the pandemic.
Despite Democratic lawmakers' pressure, there are no plans for stopping the expulsion of other migrants under Title 42.
This provision was created by Trump's administration in March 2020 in order to justify strict immigration policies to stop the spread of coronavirus. The Biden administration used Title 42 to justify the deportation and expulsion of Haitian migrants.
Late last week, a federal judge ruled that the regulation was invalid and gave the government two weeks for it to stop. However, the Biden administration appealed Monday's decision.
Officials announced Thursday that the U.S. State Department is also in discussions with Brazil and Chile in order to allow some Haitians to return to their homelands. However, the issue is complex because they don't have legal status.
In the meantime, U.S. Special Envoy to Haiti, Daniel Foote submitted a resignationprotesting large-scale, "inhumane" expulsions of Haitian migrants.
Foote was only appointed in July. Secretary of State Antony Blinken wrote that he was leaving immediately "with deep regret and apologies for those who seek crucial changes."
He wrote that he would not associate himself with the inhumane and counterproductive United States decision to deport thousands Haitian refugees and illegal immigrant to Haiti. This is a country where American officials are kept in secure compounds due to the threat posed to daily life by armed groups. "Our policy approach to Haiti is still deeply flawed. My policy recommendations have been ignored or dismissed.
This career diplomat was well-known for his frustration with Washington's lack of urgency and the glacial pace at which efforts to improve Haitian conditions were made.
Ned Price, spokesperson for the State Department, disputed Foote’s claims, stating that his proposals had been "fully evaluated in a rigorously transparent policy process."
"Some of these proposals were found to be detrimental to our commitment to democracy promotion in Haiti, and were therefore rejected during the policy-making process. Price stated that Price was simply wrong to claim his proposals were ignored.
UNICEF condemned the expulsions. Initial estimates indicate that more than two-thirds of all migrants who were expelled to Haiti are children and women, with a significant portion being children in Del Rio.
"Haiti is reeling after the triple tragedy of natural catastrophes, gang violence, and the COVID-19 panademic," stated Henrietta Fore (UNICEF's executive Director). She said that those returned without adequate protection "find theirself even more vulnerable to violence poverty and displacement -- factors which drove them to migrate in first place."
Officials from DHS stated that about two-thirds are families, while the rest are single adults.
However, even though the number of Haitian migrants in Del Rio has decreased, some groups of Cubans were still seen walking on a dirt road towards the camp at the bridge.
A group of three men approached the DPS officer, who shouted, "We got migrants!" One man said in Spanish, "We're here." We reached the country of liberty.