The U.S. government is ramping up flights returning Haitian migrants to their homeland. South of the U.S.-Mexico dividing line, Mexico is busing people away. Options are dwindling as thousands of Haitian migrants decide on which side of the border to stay.
The immigration problem will take wisdom from on high to resolve. God Himself ordains laws and protections for innocent people. (Romans 13:1-2) God also commands kindness to the strangers and foreigners (Deuteronomy 10:19) and issues special blessing on those who offer sustenance and welcome. (Matthew 25:34-35) But leaders must balance national interests such as security and their own citizens’ welfare with the needs of those seeking entry. It’s a good idea to pray for both the frightened migrants and the perplexed lawmakers and law enforcement agents.
More than 6,000 Haitians and other migrants have been removed from an encampment at Del Rio, Texas. So many of Haiti’s people are fleeing government turmoil, gang violence, and catastrophic natural disasters in their already impoverished country. The strong response from U.S. officials includes returning migrants to their destitute Caribbean country and using horse patrols to stop them from entering the Texas town.
On Monday, U.S. Department of Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas called the situation “challenging and heartbreaking.” But he issued a stark warning: “If you come to the United States illegally, you will be returned. Your journey will not succeed, and you will be endangering your life and your family’s life.”
Mexico’s Foreign Relations Secretary, Marcelo Ebrard, says most of the Haitians weren’t seeking to stay in Mexico. “What they are asking for is to be allowed to pass freely through Mexico to the United States,” he says.
So far, Mexico has made only small-scale arrests in parts of Mexico where Haitians are in transit. The plan is to take the migrants to Monterrey, in northern Mexico, and Tapachula, in the south. Flights to Haiti from those cities will begin in coming days.
Mayorkas and U.S. Border Patrol Chief Raul Ortiz are investigating reports of agents on horseback using what appear to be whips and their horses to push back migrants at the river between Acuña and Del Rio. The Department of Homeland Security promises a full investigation that would “define the appropriate disciplinary actions to be taken.”
Thousands of migrants remain camped near Del Rio around a bridge. The number at the bridge peaked at 14,872 on Saturday, says Brandon Judd, president of the National Border Patrol Council.
Mayorkas says 600 Homeland Security employees, including from the Coast Guard, have been brought to Del Rio. He has asked the Defense Department for help in what may be one of the swiftest large-scale expulsions of migrants and refugees from the United States in decades.
He also says the United States will increase the pace and size of flights to Haiti and other countries.
The rapid expulsions are related to laws passed during the pandemic. They allow migrants to be immediately removed from the United States. President Joe Biden exempted unaccompanied children from the order but let the rest stand.
Some of the migrants at the Del Rio camp say the recent devastating earthquake in Haiti and the assassination of President Jovenel Moïse make them afraid to return to a country that seems more unstable than when they left.
“It’s not right,” said Haitian migrant Jean Philipe Samus. “The Americans are grabbing Haitians and deporting everyone to Haiti. Haiti has no president, no jobs, there is nothing. In the earthquake a lot of people died. It’s not right over there. I’m going back to Mexico.”
(Migrants, many from Haiti, wade across the Rio Grande River from Del Rio, Texas, to return to Mexico on September 20, 2021, to avoid deportation from the United States. AP/Felix Marquez)