ACUNA, Mexico—Some of the thousands of illegal immigrants who have amassed near the Texas border are leaving the United States, returning to Mexico to pick up supplies or to avoid being deported back to their home countries.
Haitians and others were witnessed on Sept. 20 crossing the Rio Grande to enter Acuña, Mexico, as they consider their options following a U.S. crackdown on the illegal immigrant camp under the International Bridge just north of the border in Del Rio, Texas.
Phanel, a Haitian who has been living in Chile for three years, was one of the immigrants who went to Acuña. He told The Epoch Times he was stocking up on supplies, including water and fruit, after hearing around the encampment that everybody who stayed would be deported.
Phanel, who declined to give his last name, said he was considering what to do next.
Yaneth, 32, whose husband is Haitian, also expressed concern about being deported. She planned to venture back to Del Rio to get her family, including her partner, and return to Acuña to try to formulate a plan.
Recounting a harrowing journey from Chile, Yaneth said that most women who travel through the Darien jungle get raped.
“I’m not going back,” she said, adding that the family would likely go to a different part of the U.S.–Mexico border and try to cross there.
Nader Alth, 39, wasn’t as certain of heading to a different spot on the border. The Haitian native, who was with his 9-year-old son, was looking for a shelter in Mexico and said he’d stay there for now.
“It’s not an option to go back to Haiti,” he told The Epoch Times. “I can’t go back, they’ll kill me.”
The Del Rio area has become the epicenter of the Biden administration’s border crisis, which has escalated since President Joe Biden took office in January, after which he abruptly reversed or altered key Trump-era policies such as the Migrant Protection Protocols, border wall construction, and the expulsion of illegal immigrant children through pandemic-era powers.
Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas traveled to the area on Sept. 20 to get an on-the-ground operational update and see firsthand the huge, litter-ridden camp that has sprung up under the International Bridge in the Texas town.
Mayorkas said the surge in immigrants was “rather sudden” and “rather dramatic,” prompting a large-scale response that has included moving some 6,500 immigrants to other parts of the border in the past several days to ease the burden on the overtaxed agents in the Del Rio Border Sector, while sending approximately 400 agents and officers to the sector.
From Mexico side of Rio Grande: A new border crossing area has formed downstream between the US and Mexico as the weir dam was blocked by US law enforcement.
Many leaving US to avoid deportation, others getting supplies from Acuna, Mexico. pic.twitter.com/V5y4ZAL3Gi
— Charlotte Cuthbertson (@charlottecuthbo) September 20, 2021
The Department of Homeland Security conducted three repatriation flights to Port-au-Prince, Haiti, from Del Rio on Sept. 19, returning 327 Haitian nationals to their home country. DHS expects to conduct one to three such flights per day for a while and is attempting to secure additional planes to carry out more flights.
Mayorkas denounced what he described as “false information” driving the surge. He said the message to people thinking about making the journey from the south is that “Our borders are not open and people should not make the dangerous journey.”
“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,” he said, adding that many of the immigrants would be deported.
While Biden administration officials have emphasized the message for months, it’s been undercut by some of the worst border numbers in history and by officials allowing a large portion of the immigrants to stay in the United States, as well as the rollback of various immigration enforcement schemes, such as the protocols.
Mayorkas later denounced smugglers, saying: “It is tragic to see families, vulnerable individuals, who have been deceived by treacherous and exploitative smuggling organizations. It is tragic and it is heartbreaking.”