The Biden Administration offered new data Thursday on how many Haitian nationals are being processed at the U.S. southern border near Del Rio, Texas, and returned to Haiti in repatriation flights, but it’s still not clear how many have been allowed into the U.S. interior.
The administration also says it is suspending its use of horse patrols in Del Rio amid an ongoing investigation into photographs and video showing border patrol officers dispersing illegal immigrants while on horseback. The agents in the photos have been placed on leave while the case is under review.
Press secretary Jen Psaki told reporters that 12 repatriation flights have returned 1,401 Haitians to Haiti since Sunday. She says 3,206 migrants have been removed from the Del Rio camp into U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) custody or to other sectors of the U.S. border to either be expelled under Title 42 or be placed into removal proceedings.
Psaki says less than 5,000 people remain at camps in the Del Rio sector. That number was estimated at as many as 15,000 over the weekend as illegal immigrants, primarily from Haiti, camped out under an international bridge near the border. Neither Psaki nor DHS has provided details as to how many illegal immigrants have been released into the U.S.
“We are still under Title 42 because we are in a global pandemic, so we are still operationalizing that,” said Psaki. “If people are not expelled under that, then there are a range of options. Either they are put into an alternative to detention, where biometric data is required, they’re given a notice to appear or they’re put in an ICE (U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement) facility.”
Psaki also offered comments on the resignation of the U.S. Special Envoy for Haiti Ambassador Daniel Foote, who in a letter to Secretary of State Antony Blinken said he “will not be associated with the United States’ inhumane, counterproductive decision to deport thousands of Haitian refugees and illegal immigrants to Haiti, a country where American officials are confined to secure compounds because of the danger posed by armed gangs in control of daily life.”
Psaki said: “We respect [Foote’s] point of view, respect his ability to bring forward concerns, to raise ideas, to raise proposals. That’s certainly something the president welcomes from everyone on his team and something that [Foote] had an opportunity to do at a range of meetings.”
She added: “We also have to make decisions here based on what we feel are going to help promote democracy in Haiti, including Haitian-led reforms, Haitian-led steps on the ground to make changes in this country.”
Haiti is the western hemisphere’s poorest nation. It was thrown into political tumult after the assassination of its President Jovenel Moïse in July, and thousands were killed in the Caribbean nation from a 7.2 magnitude earthquake in August.