Thousands of Haitian migrants were released into the U.S. after Biden administration officials said the migrant group who accumulated under a bridge in Del Rio, Texas, would be deported, the Associated Press reported on Wednesday.
Migrants were released on a “very, very large scale” including thousands of people, a U.S. official who was not authorized to speak on the matter told the AP. Most of the migrants who were released were issued notices to appear in court, meaning they have 60 days to check in with an immigration office anywhere in the U.S.
Department of Homeland Security (DHS) officials reportedly bussed Haitians from Del Rio, Texas, to other border towns including El Paso, Laredo and into the Rio Grande Valley for additional processing, according to the AP.
“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,” DHS Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas said during a Monday press conference. However, several Haitian migrants who entered the U.S. illegally were released in Del Rio, Texas, the AP reported.
NEW: 2 officials tell @AP Haitian migrants camped in Texas border town have been released into the U.S., undercutting expulsion vows.
— Sean Langille (@SeanLangille) September 22, 2021
Another U.S. official who spoke on the condition of anonymity because they weren’t authorized to discuss the matter said many Haitian migrants were processed under existing immigration laws instead of boarding expulsion flights, according to the AP.
Haitian migrant Mackenson Veillard and his pregnant wife were released from the camp into Del Rio, Texas, on Monday, where they planned to take a bus to meet a family member in San Antonio, the AP reported.
“I felt so stressed,” Veillard told the AP. “But now, I feel better. It’s like I’m starting a new life.”
The Biden administration hasn’t defined what parameters allow some migrants to enter the U.S. with notices to appear or refer them for deportation, the AP reported. Immigration lawyers and advocates weren’t allowed to visit the temporary camp under the Del Rio bridge and don’t have information about how migrants are being processed at the camp.
“Everybody in this country and around the world should be up in arms about the fact that we have an immigration system that operates as such a black box,” immigration attorney Wade McMullen told the AP. McMullen works with the Washington, D.C.-based nonprofit Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights.
It’s unclear how many migrants have been deported and how many were released into the U.S., according to the AP. Immigration officials increased deportation flights to Haiti after they couldn’t find enough transportation companies to provide buses for the migrants.
Some Haitians who were sent back to the country said they lost their chance at the American dream, Reuters reported on Tuesday. Several of the deportees said they weren’t told where they were going when they boarded the flights and many of them haven’t lived in Haiti since they were teenagers.