Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas told lawmakers that DHS monitors migration flows but the “speed” with which the surge of Haitian migrants appeared at the Del Rio, Texas, port of entry “is unprecedented.”
“I don’t think that we can overstate the heartbreak with respect to the vulnerability of the Haitian people who we are encountering specifically in Del Rio, Texas, over the last week and their vulnerability,” Mayorkas told the House Homeland Security Committee during a Wednesday hearing on worldwide threats.
Temporary Protected Status had previously been granted to Haitian nationals who were in the country before July 29, but “we have looked at the country conditions and made a determination that in fact we can return individuals who have arrived subsequent to July 29 to Haiti,” he said. “We are working with countries in South America — Chile, Brazil, for example — to see whether they would accept the return of Haitians who’ve traveled from those countries.”
Asked if DHS was prepared for the surge, with Rep. Michael McCaul (R-Texas) saying that he received emails from Customs and Border Protection agents in which they asked for more resources in early June, Mayorkas replied, “We have not seen before such a rapid migration, irregular migration of individuals as we have observed and experienced with respect to the Haitians who’ve crossed the border in Del Rio, Texas.”
“But did you have any warning signs?” McCaul asked. “You know, when the sector chief is being warned about this, when the Panama foreign minister is warning on June the 3rd, and, you know, here we are in September, you know, months later — did you see this coming?”
“We watch the flow of individuals who are seeking to migrate irregularly through Mexico from the Northern Triangle countries and further south. We do indeed track it,” Mayorkas responded. “And nevertheless, congressman, as I previously articulated, the speed with which this materialized is unprecedented. And that is why we surged as many resources as we have.”
More than 5,000 migrants are still under the bridge in Del Rio today awaiting processing, down from an estimated 15,000 on Sept. 18. Some have been deported, some with prior removal orders are being prosecuted, some have retreated into Mexico to avoid expulsion proceedings in the United States, some have been transported to less-crowded points of entry for processing, and some have been allowed into the country as their asylum claims are processed. DHS temporarily suspended the use of horse patrols in Del Rio as the department investigates footage of Border Patrol agents on horseback confronting migrants trying to enter the United States.
U.S. Special Envoy to Haiti Daniel Foote, who was appointed in July after the assassination of Haitian President Jovenel Moise, stepped down today, telling Secretary of State Anthony Blinken in his resignation letter, “I 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 to daily life. Our policy approach to Haiti remains deeply flawed, and my policy recommendations have been ignored and dismissed, when not edited to project a narrative different from my own.” State Department spokesman Ned Price said in a written statement, “It is unfortunate that, instead of participating in a solutions-oriented policy process, Special Envoy Foote has both resigned and mischaracterized the circumstances of his resignation.”
Mayorkas told lawmakers at a Tuesday hearing before the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee that “what we are learning from our interviews with individuals is they are receiving false information and misinformation from the smuggling organizations that are trafficking the exploitation of vulnerable individuals.”
“We are increasing the frequency and number of the repatriation flights each day… we’re hoping that what we are doing now serves a deterrent because it backs up the words that we have spoken since the very outset: that irregular migration is not the way to enter the United States,” he said. “It will not work. It is dangerous, and it creates a humanitarian challenge.”