12,000 migrants wait in makeshift camps under the Del Rio Bridge in Texas


Standing in the sweltering Texas sun, Jameson Tilus held his two children in his arms and described the desperate conditions under the Del Rio International Bridge.

The 26-year-old Haitian national and his family arrived about a week ago after crossing the Rio Grande River. Obtaining food has been difficult, said Tilus, and he is concerned for all the children, including his own, who are exposed to the extreme heat and the storm that hit this weekend.

“We are suffering here,” Tilus told CNN on Sunday.

About 12,000 migrants Рincluding families, pregnant women and babies Рcrowded into squalid makeshift camps under and around the bridge between Texas and Ciudad Acu̱a in northeastern Mexico on Sunday, authorities said.

The number of migrants – many of them Haitians – gathered in the temporary site rose to around 400 a week ago. At times the number has exceeded 14,000. The wave may simply be due to word of mouth and social media that the border at Del Rio was open, US Border Patrol chief Raul Ortiz said.

The migrants sleep in tents or in the dirt, surrounded by growing piles of garbage, and they wait in hopes of being treated by the overwhelmed US border patrol. Few wear masks, despite the Covid-19 pandemic, video of the scene shows.

The heat is oppressive. Temperatures on Monday are expected to reach 100 degrees.

Ten babies have been delivered since Thursday by women carried under the bridge, a hospital official said. Local authorities are overwhelmed by the crush of people, they said.

Head of Homeland Security visits Del Rio

The Department of Homeland Security on Monday moved about 3,000 people from Del Rio to other treatment sites in the United States, in addition to the 3,500 displaced in recent days, Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas said in a statement. press conference from Del Rio.

These steps were taken “to ensure that migrants are promptly detained, treated and returned from the United States in accordance with our laws and policies,” he said.

DHS is also trying to increase deportation flights to Haiti and other destinations, Mayorkas said.

“We are planning at least one to three flights a day,” he said.

Only Haitians in the United States before July 29 are eligible for temporary protected status, he said.

“If you come to the United States illegally, you will be sent back,” he added. “Your trip will not be successful and you will endanger your life and that of your family.”

U.S. Customs and Border Protection were planning to send 600 officers and agents to the Del Rio area, Ortiz said at a press conference on Sunday. And the American Red Cross and World Central Kitchen are helping provide supplies and meals, Mayorkas added.

Due to the crush of migrants seeking to enter the United States, the Del Rio International Bridge has temporarily closed and traffic is diverted to ensure an uninterrupted flow of trade and travel, Ortiz said.

The Defense Department will also help move migrants from Del Rio to other national customs processing and border protection facilities, a Pentagon spokesperson told CNN on Monday in a statement. Internal security and customs and border protection had sought help from the Defense Ministry as thousands of undocumented migrants created the makeshift camp.

Texas Governor Greg Abbott on Monday called for a declaration of emergency due to the number of migrants on the bridge.

The “overwhelming wave of individuals illegally attempting to cross the Texas-Mexico border into Val Verde County … poses fatal risks to residents of Val Verde County and is quickly overtaking law enforcement, care. health and humanitarian resources that were never intended to be used in this capacity, “Abbott, a Republican, wrote in a letter to Democratic President Joe Biden.

Abbott’s team added in a press release: “The failure of the federal government to enforce immigration laws … results in substantial burdens on local and state resources, as well as on federal resources.”

Del Rio hospital “on the verge of being overwhelmed”

Calls to the Val Verde Regional Medical Center in Del Rio have increased ‘exponentially’ as thousands of migrants wait to be treated by immigration authorities, hospital executive director Linda Walker said .

“We’re about to be overwhelmed,” Walker said. “We are stretched. We are in crisis.”

Beyond the 10 babies born, calls for help from EMS have not stopped since Thursday, Walker said. Most come from pregnant women in need of help and people suffering from dehydration.

A dozen calls arrived at the hospital on Sunday, Walker said. At least one migrant patient, a 29-year-old man from Haiti, is in hospital with Covid-19, she said.

Of the 48 beds at the rural hospital, 41 were occupied on Friday, she said.

A long trip from Haiti to Texas

It is believed that many Haitians camping under the bridge have been living in South America since the catastrophic 2010 earthquake in their home countries. The economic toll of the pandemic on the region has further fueled migration to the southern border of the United States.

Haiti is now a “dangerous country” because of the recent presidential assassination and the earthquake, Nicole Phillips, legal director of the Haitian Bridge Alliance, a group advocating for Haitian migrants, told CNN on Monday.

“People still do not have access to clean water and medical care,” she said. “So what must happen is to stop the deportation flights to Haiti with immediate effect and instead of welcoming Haitians to screen them for asylum … so that they do not have to go back to where they fled. “

Tilus’ family left Haiti in 2015 after being assaulted in his own home and his aunt shot, he said. His family quickly moved to Chile, then moved to the United States two months ago.

Tilus, his wife, their 5-year-old daughter and their 3-year-old son traveled to Del Rio because friends and family told him the border was open there, he said.

Tilus has family in America: his brother, his uncle, cousins, he says. He longs for a better life. He wants to study and better support his family.

“I am 26 years old and I have no profession,” said Tilus, his voice broken. “I was very bad, I wanted a better life.”

Wait for his number to be called

Another of the waiting migrants was optimistic. Jose’s eyes were bloodshot and he hadn’t showered in four days, but he was smiling as he charged his dead cell phone at a migrant center in Del Rio.

His next stop was “Paradise” which is Miami, he said.

José is not his real name. He asked CNN to protect his identity lest it affect his immigration record.

Jose left Cuba in late 2019 and found himself stranded in Costa Rica after the pandemic broke out and the world was locked out, he said. After working for two years, he and his wife saved $ 6,000 to emigrate to the United States.

Their journey began on August 13 by bus and taxi across Mexico. Along the way, the “word on the streets” was that Del Rio was the place to cross the United States, he said. They crossed the river, like so many others, and arrived on Tuesday.

US immigration authorities divide migrants into groups, including men, women, pregnant women and families, he said. Pregnant women have priority in treatment and women too. José and his wife had to separate.

José received a ticket with a number over 4000. Everyone under the bridge is anxiously waiting for their number to be called over the speaker, he said.

Jose’s wife left the bridge on Wednesday and was treated by immigration officials on Thursday, he said. His wife arrived in Miami the same day. And although tired and exhausted, he said he hopes to get on a plane and join her soon.

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