Note: This live blog for the migrant influx in Del Rio, Texas is no longer being updated. For the latest exclusive stories and breaking news about issues along the United States-Mexico border, stay with BorderReport.com.
DEL RIO, Texas (Border Report) — The international bridge in Del Rio, Texas has been closed since Sept. 17 after an encampment under the bridge of migrants — mostly Haitians — swelled to almost 15,000. The issue is drawing national leaders: Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas visited the bridge on Monday, and U.S. Border Patrol Chief Raul Ortiz visited Sunday. Federal and state law enforcement have been surged to this rural border city that finds itself at the crosshairs of an international humanitarian crisis. Read updates from Border Report:
- Texas state trooper vehicle barrier still along border in Del Rio, DPS says only temporary fix
- Photographer behind controversial Border Patrol images speaks exclusively to KTSM
- Migrant camp along Texas border shrinks as removals ramp up
- Texas congressman says Biden handling of border could lead to ‘another 9/11 type event’
- Del Rio confrontation puts near century-old horseback Border Patrol unit in the spotlight
- Groups turn up pressure on Biden, Democrats to end deportations and make good on immigration reform
- Haitian migrants brought over from Del Rio, Texas being released to El Paso shelter
- Black, Hispanic lawmakers call for halt to Haitian deportation flights
- ‘Total chaos’: Gov. Abbott calls out Biden administration as 8K migrants remain in Del Rio
- Border Patrol tactics against Haitians in Del Rio draw outrage, protests
- Officials: Many Haitian migrants are being released in US
- EXCLUSIVE: Haitian migrants land at El Paso International Airport
- Homeland Security Secretary in Del Rio, Texas: ‘Our borders are not open’
- Migrants no longer crossing into Del Rio, Texas, Border Patrol Chief says
- CBP closes international bridge in response to migrant influx in Del Rio
- A ‘dire situation’ for over 12,500 migrants under the bridge in Del Rio, Texas
- 8,000 migrants await processing under international bridge in Del Rio, Texas
Friday, Sept. 24, 2021, 11:20 a.m.:
The last remaining migrants departed a makeshift camp there just before noon local time on Friday, CNN reported Friday morning.
A CNN team captured images under the bridge of the final two buses as they departed for U.S. Customs and Border Protection processing centers.
Thursday, Sept. 23, 12:35 p.m.:
AUSTIN (KXAN) — Texas congressman Tony Gonzales believes the U.S. could face “another 9/11-type event” due to the Biden administration’s handling of the southern border and Afghanistan.
The Republican congressman made the comments Thursday morning during an appearance on Fox News.
“There is a national security event that is just brewing,” Gonzales said when asked about the thousands of Haitian migrants who remain beneath a bridge in Del Rio, Texas.
Thursday, Sept. 23, 12:07 p.m.:
The Biden administration’s special envoy to Haiti, Daniel Foote, who was appointed in July, wrote Secretary of State Antony Blinken that he was stepping down immediately “with deep disappointment and apologies to those seeking crucial changes.”
“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,” he wrote. “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.”
The career diplomat was known to be deeply frustrated with what he considered a lack of urgency in Washington and a glacial pace on efforts to improve conditions in Haiti.
Thursday, Sept. 23, 11:32 a.m.:
Thursday, Sept 23, 11:17 a.m.:
In El Paso, activists have started gathering at San Jacinto Plaza in Downtown El Paso for a “March of Dignity,” demanding accountability from U.S. immigration authorities. The demonstrators plan to the Paso del Norte International Bridge and then hold a press conference.
Thursday, Sept. 23, 10:34 a.m.:
Despite growing pressure from grassroots groups and Democratic lawmakers, the U.S. government has no immediate plans to suspend repatriation flights of Haitian migrants from a camp near Del Rio, Texas.
The agency on Thursday also suspended the use of horse patrols in Del Rio after images of U.S. Border Patrol agents showing aggressive tactics on Haitian immigrants surfaced, CNN reported.
The Department of Homeland Security late Wednesday said two flights taking Haitians back to their country left Del Rio for Port-au-Prince. A third flight took off from Del Rio to Cap Haitien, also on Wednesday.
Wednesday, Sept. 22, 3:54 p.m.:
A group of Democratic lawmakers and advocacy organizations are calling for an immediate end to deportation flights of Haitian migrants encamped near Del Rio, Texas.
And they’re demanding accountability from U.S. Border Patrol agents on horseback allegedly “effecting violence” on migrants of color along the banks of the Rio Grande.
“I cannot be silent; it turns my stomach in knots. […] I don’t want to see another picture of people being treated like animals just because of crossing the border. U.S. values shouldn’t stop because of the color of your skin,” said U.S. Rep. Brenda Lawrence, D-Michigan.
Wednesday, Sept. 22, 1:12 p.m.:
Wednesday, Sept. 22, 1 p.m.:
DEL RIO, Texas (KXAN) — Texas Gov. Greg Abbott estimated there are 8,600 migrants still near the international bridge in Del Rio, and he said during an update Tuesday there’s “no intention to depart this location until it’s fully restored to total control.”
He spoke from the bridge along with Texas Department of Public Safety Director Steve McCraw, Texas Military Department Adjutant General Tracy Norris and Brandon Judd, the National Border Patrol Council President.
Abbott asked President Joe Biden earlier in the week for an emergency declaration in response to the influx of migrants in Del Rio, where mainly Haitian immigrants have arrived, according to KXAN news partner Border Report. Abbott said while it would start with affected counties along the border, it could be expanded to the entire state if needed.
Wednesday, Sept. 22, 9:57 p.m.:
U.S. officials say many Haitian migrants camped in a small Texas border town are being released in the United States, undercutting the Biden administration’s public statements that Haitians who enter the country illegally face immediate expulsion, the Associated Pres reports.
One official says Haitians have been freed on a “very, very large scale” in recent days, many of them with notices to appear at an immigration office.
The officials spoke on condition of anonymity to The Associated Press. The releases come despite a massive effort to expel Haitians on flights to Haiti under pandemic-related authority that denies migrants an opportunity to seek asylum.
Tuesday, Sept. 21, 4:33 p.m.:
Dozens of migrants upset about being deported to Haiti from the U.S. clashed with authorities while trying to rush back into a plane that landed Tuesday afternoon in Port-au-Prince, the Associated Press reported.
A security guard closed the plane door just in time as some deportees began throwing shoes at the plane, yelling, “This is abuse!” and “How is this possible?!”
The group that included men and women had disembarked from the second of four flights that arrived on Tuesday, with some temporarily losing their belongings in the scuffle as police arrived. Among those trying to get back on the plane was Maxine Orélien, who blamed Haiti’s prime minister for the situation.
Tuesday, Sept, 21, 3:20 p.m. :
The Republican congressman who represents Del Rio, Texas is urging President Joe Biden to issue a statewide emergency for Texas, as requested by Gov. Greg Abbott.
In a letter to Biden and FEMA, U.S. Rep. Tony Gonzalez said he writes in full support of Abbott’s request in response to the thousands of migrants who are currently awaiting processing under the international bridge in Del Rio.
“Although the State of Texas has been proactive in committing its own resources to this emergency, the federal government is primarily responsible for border security, and federal engagement is critical to bring relief to our southern border,” Gonzales wrote. “This is a national security issue and a humanitarian crisis that is visible on an international scale. To prevent it from spiraling further out of control, I urge you to take immediate action to approve Governor Abbott’s request for an emergency disaster declaration.”
To read Gonzales’ letter, click here.
Tuesday, Sept. 21, 2:56 p.m.:
Aircraft bringing Haitian migrants from Del Rio, Texas, continue to land in El Paso, Border Report confirmed on Tuesday.
The migrants stepped off a white U.S. Coast Guard airplane around 10 a.m. in an area of the airport designated for cargo and private flights. They were placed on a white unmarked bus that was later spotted in the parking lot of a Border Patrol station in El Paso. Adult men and women, as well as some children, could be seen retrieving belongings from the bus at the station.
Tuesday, Sept, 21, 2:07 p.m.:
Drone footage filmed on Tuesday showed Haitian migrants crossing the Rio Grande, which separates Mexico and the U.S. on Tuesday as officials from both nations worked to move them away from the border.
Like the U.S. government, Mexico has begun busing some of the migrants away from the area.
Tuesday, Sept, 21, 10:20 a.m.:
Tuesday, Sept. 21, 10:14 a.m.:
Homeland Security chief Alejandro Mayorkas says images of what appeared to be Border Patrol agents on horseback rounding up migrants trying to cross the southern border “horrified” him.
The Associated Press reported Tuesday that Mayorkas told CNN that “any mistreatment or abuse of a migrant is unacceptable” and added, “the pictures that I’ve observed troubled me profoundly.” But he wouldn’t explicitly say whether they reflected mistreatment or abuse, deferring instead to a promised investigation.
“That defies all of the values that we seek to instill in our people,” Mayorkas said, adding that the department will address the situation “with full force” after the investigation is complete.
Monday, Sept. 20, 8 p.m.:
The sun is setting on this border town and there isn’t a hotel room to be found for about 70 miles. With a population of just 35,000, Del Rio’s numbers have nearly doubled with 1,000 state troopers, and nearly 1,000 more Border Patrol, CBP, National Guard, HHS officials, volunteers, Coast Guard and others who have come due to the migrant crisis.
Monday, Sept. 20, 5:30 p.m.:
“Hundreds” of migrants were released by federal authorities on Monday to the Val Verde Humanitarian Border Coalition, a faith-based nonprofit organization that operates the only migrant shelter in Del Rio, Texas. Coalition Director Tiffany Burrow told Border Report they had more migrants, mostly Haitians, released to the center than since the surge began last week. Federal officials say they are now moving 3,000 migrants out of the region each day. Dozens boarded a charter bus that picked them up directly at the center.
Monday, Sept. 20, 2:20 p.m.:
Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas became the top Biden administration official to visit the remote and beleaguered border town of Del Rio, Texas, on Monday. He toured the international bridge where thousands of migrants, mostly Haitians, have amassed in the past week trying to claim asylum in the United States. He declared an all-of-government approach to tackle what he called a “challenging and heartbreaking situation.” This includes workers from the Department of Health and Human Services, U.S. Coast Guard, local law enforcement and even the San Antonio Fire Department.
He said 600 DHS agents from U.S. Border Patrol, and Customs and Border Protection have been sent to the region and there are several horse patrol units working the riverine assignment, which he said, “play an integral part in our security response.”
The warning he had for anyone considering trying to cross the Mexican border illegally: Don’t.
“If you come to the U.S. illegally, you will be returned,” Mayorkas said, joined by U.S. Border Patrol Chief Raul Ortiz and CBP Commissioner Troy Miller. “This is not the way to come to the United States.”
Monday, Sept, 20, 11:09 a.m.
Texas Gov. Greg Abbott asked President Joe Biden for an emergency declaration for the state of Texas in response to the migrant influx, specifically in Del Rio, where thousands of mostly Haitian immigrants have arrived and amassed under the international bridge.
In a letter to the president, Abbot said the federal government has failed to enforce immigration laws failed to halt illegal crossings on a dam on federal property. That is leading, Abbott said, to substantial burdens on local and state resources, as well as federal resources.
“Border security is a federal responsibility; however, in response to the current situation, I have taken the appropriate action under state law by directing the execution of the state’s emergency management plan and by declaring a state of disaster on May 31, 2021, for multiple Texas counties across the state’s southern border,” Abbott’s letter reads. “This surge poses life-threatening risks to residents of Val Verde County and is quickly overrunning law enforcement and health care and humanitarian resources which were never intended to be used in this capacity. Even the limited federal resources in the area are strained
by the large number of individuals illegally crossing into Texas. I have determined that the disaster caused from individuals unlawfully crossing the Texas-Mexico border is of such severity that supplementary federal assistance is necessary to lessen the threat of disaster, save lives, and protect property, public health, and safety.”
Monday, Sept. 20, 10:29 a.m.
Members of the media are waiting for Department of Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas to speak. Mayorkas will be in Del Rio to tour the international bridge. There are about a dozen cameras set up from the major news networks as well as the Wall Street Journal. DHS tweeted in the last hour that Mayorkas will receive an operational briefing on steps being taken to address the situation in the sector. He will also meet with state and local partners and hold a press conference.
Monday, Sept. 20, 7:45 a.m.
Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas today is scheduled to tour the Del Rio International Bridge where federal, state and local troops are amassing to quell about 12,000 migrants, mostly Haitians, who are waiting under the bridge to claim asylum in this remote border town. Mayorkas will get an “operational update” and hold a 12 p.m. news conference, CBP said.
Sunday, Sept. 19, 7:45 p.m.
Law enforcement presence has been significantly amped up in Del Rio, Texas. A bank of Texas state troopers and National Guard units now guard the entrance to the Del Rio International Bridge and have restricted media from parking on the side of the road closest to the river. An additional 400 U.S. Border Patrol agents have arrived, U.S. Border Patrol Chief Raul Ortiz said. This is in addition to the 1,000 state troopers and National Guard sent by Texas Gov. Greg Abbott.
Sunday, Sept. 19, 6 p.m.
The Del Rio International Bridge has now been closed for 48 hours after U.S. Customs and Border Protection officials shuttered the port on Friday at 6 p.m. Del Rio Mayor Bruno Lozano today said the closure is hurting financially “all of our pocketbooks.” He said the maquiladora industry, in particular, “is losing thousands of dollars per hour” as the shutdown continues. But he quickly added that he believes it is necessary because there were fears that the 13,000 migrants who had amassed on Friday have tried “to storm over the bridge.”
Sunday, Sept. 19, 4:50 p.m.
Border Report correspondent Sandra Sanchez was detained for 45 minutes and threatened with arrest by military police at Laughlin Air Force Base for taking photographs of the base sign from outside the base gates. The base, east of Del Rio, is where flights began leaving on Sunday to repatriate migrants in Haiti. The Val Verde County Sheriff’s Department was called and a deputy came, but the military police maintained Sanchez had illegally entered federal property and held her on the base. There is no sign posted, however military police told Sanchez that the base lands extend north of the gate entry. Sanchez was finally released without any charges after requiring she delete the photos and video of the outside of the gate.
Sunday, Sept. 19, 1:30 p.m.
U.S. Border Patrol Chief Raul Ortiz traveled to the remote border town of Del Rio, Texas, and told a throng of media during a short news conference “no one has crossed since midnight,” in regards to migrants coming from Mexico: Ortiz, who used to be stationed in South Texas, said 3,300 migrants have been moved from the area with the help of Department of Homeland Security, U.S. Coast Guard and U.S. Immigration Customs and Enforcement agents. He said 3,000 more are to be moved in the next 24 hours.
Ortiz said 12,662 migrants remain under the Del Rio International Bridge, down from 15,000 on Saturday.
Ortiz said flights back to Haiti to repatriate migrants who do not qualify for asylum began Sunday at 3:30 a.m.
Del Rio Mayor Bruno Lozano afterwards said he was grateful for the federal response to his beleaguered community of 40,000. And he said the Mexican city of Acuna, across the Rio Grande, is now “stepping up its game” to help stop the flow of migrants.
Sunday, Sept. 19, 12:30 p.m.
The Del Rio mayor has called a 1 p.m. press conference at the base of the Del Rio International Bridge.
Sunday, Sept. 19, 11:45 a.m.
The Greyhound bus to San Antonio — one of only two buses from Del Rio each day — just departed with two dozen migrants on board, mostly Haitians. Among the travelers was a baby born on Wednesday in Del Rio at an area hospital. The newsborn’s mother had been living under the bridge and was admitted into an area hospital when she went into labor. Val Verde Humanitarian Border Coalition Director Tiffany Burrows helped to hold the baby and helped the family board the bus.
Sunday, Sept. 19, 11 a.m.
Eighteen migrants, almost all from Haiti, are getting help with last minute bus tickets at the Stripes gas station in Del Rio, which doubles as this border city’s only bus station. The bus arrives at 11:30 a.m., one of only two per day, and Santiago Pardo of Church World Service is helping them book travel arrangements on a laptop to New Jersey, Florida and other locations. On Saturday local officials announced the processing of asylum seekers had sped up, to 2,000 per day, in an effort to relieve the masses living under the international bridge.
Saturday, Sept. 18, 8:10 p.m.
Read Sandra Sanchez’s latest report on the influx of troopers and National Guard to the border below.
Saturday, Sept. 18, 7:45 p.m.
A sudden storm blew into Del Rio, Texas, bringing winds and some rain and dropping temperatures into the 70s, from triple-digits. It’s a welcome respite for everyone — law enforcement, media and the migrants who had been living in sweltering conditions under the Del Rio International Bridge for days in 100-degree heat.
Saturday, Sept. 18, 6:15 p.m.
Felicia Rangel-Samponaro, co-director of the Sidewalk School for Children Asylum Seekers, tells Border Report that she is in Reynosa, Mexico, helping Haitian migrants who have just arrived in a caravan of 400 south of the town of McAllen, Texas. “I have 9 Haitian asylums seekers in my car,” she said. “We are surrounded by Mexican military.” She said other volunteers “and strangers” are also helping to pick up the migrants from the road.
Saturday, Sept. 18, 4:45 p.m.
Migrant advocates in South Texas tell Border Report that a caravan of 400 migrants, mostly Haitians, is currently entering the Mexican border town of Reynosa, south of McAllen, Texas. Over 15,000 migrants, mostly Haitians, are living under an international bridge in Del Rio, Texas, having crossed over the past week from the Mexican border town of Acuña in the state of Coahuila. Officials say the migrants are part of a caravan that entered through Panama months ago and headed north.
Saturday, Sept. 18, 4:30 p.m.
According to the Associated Press, the Biden Administration is ramping up its efforts to return many of the Haitian migrants to their homeland. Border Report learned some flights will leave from Laughlin Air Force Base near Del Rio.
The AP reports: “A U.S. official told The Associated Press on Friday that operational capacity and Haiti’s willingness to accept flights will determine how many there will be. The official said progress was being made on negotiations with Haitian authorities. The official said the U.S would likely fly five to eight planes a day, starting Sunday, while another official expected no more than two a day and said all migrants would be tested for COVID-19. Both officials were not authorized to discuss the matter publicly and spoke on the condition of anonymity.”
Saturday, Sept. 18, 2:45 p.m.
Dozens and dozens of Texas state troopers descend upon the banks of the Rio Grande near the bridge, sent by Gov. Greg Abbott to assist with migrant situation. Many are seen standing behind the border wall under the shade of a tree in triple-digit heat. Helicopters buzz above.
Saturday, Sept. 18, 2:05 p.m.
Border Patrol agents rush a pregnant woman to emergency care from the bridge in the back of a truck. She was lying down and agents were on top of her trying to help her as they drove away.
Saturday, Sept. 18, 2:00 p.m.
Del Rio Mayor Bruno Lozano ended a press conference where he announced 1,000 state troopers were being surged to the border city. He said the number of migrants living under the international bridge is now 14,812, up from 12,500 a day earlier. Lozano was joined by U.S. Rep. August Pfluger, R-Texas, a member of the House Homeland Security Committee who blamed the Biden administration and called this a “flashpoint” in failed immigration policy.
Saturday, Sept. 18, 12:30 p.m.
U.S. Immigration and Customs and Enforcement refuse to unload two busloads full of migrants at the Val Verde Border Humanitarian Coalition after media photographed bags being unloaded from the bottom of one bus. The ICE official yelled at media, including Border Report, repeatedly. Center Director Tiffany Burrow appealed with the officials to unload the migrants — quantity onboard unknown — but eventually the buses left. It was uncertain what would happen to the migrants. No migrants were photographed.
Saturday, Sept. 18, 11 a.m.
Several stores in the Plaza del Sol Mall in Del Rio did not open because many workers live across the Rio Grande in Ciudad Acuña, in the northern Mexican border state of Coahuila. Several other businesses in this town of 50,000 also have “CLOSED” signs as many workers were stuck on either side of the border when the international bridge was closed by U.S. Customs and Border Protection at 6 p.m. on Friday.
Saturday, Sept. 18, 10:30 a.m.
A delivery truck filled with donated goods arrives at the Val Verde Border Humanitarian Coalition which is helping upwards of 200 migrants per day during this surge of migrants to the small town of Del Rio, Texas.
Saturday, Sept. 18, 10 a.m.
About 50 pro-Trump supporters gathered near the closed Del Rio International Bridge protesting what they call “failed” U.S. immigration policy by the Biden administration. The group held signs urging the migrants on the bridge be sent back. Some motorists honked and waved, although there weren’t many because that section of the road is basically closed. After 90 minutes in high-heat, the group walked to the base of the bridge and took a photo beside the “Welcome to Texas” sign and Texas flag.
Friday, Sept. 17, 9 p.m.
Motorists waiting for the Del Rio International Bridge to reopen were told to move their vehicles as local law enforcement were expecting a truck with barricades coming from Laredo, Texas, to be delivered. The barricades would allow all law enforcement to be surged under the bridge — not atop it — Del Rio police told Border Report.
Friday, Sept. 17, 8:30 p.m.
Val Verde County Judge Lewis Owens visited the closed base of the Del Rio International Bridge and spoke with motorists and pedestrians telling them the bridge would not be reopening overnight. He suggested they drive 57 miles south to Eagle Pass, Texas, to enter Mexico in the city of Piedras Negras. He said the total number of migrants under the bridge is over 13,000.
Friday, Sept. 17, 7 p.m.
There is a scramble for hotel rooms and lodging in this small town of 50,000 as the international bridge is closed. Many motorists tell Border Report they cannot afford a hotel. One teen boy on a bicycle said his entire family lives in Acuña. He was trying to return from his job in Del Rio in a warehouse when the bridge was closed before sunset. An elderly couple in a truck asked Border Report for directions for how to get from the Mexican border city of Piedras Negras to Acuña if they crossed the bridge in Eagle Pass, Texas, 57 miles to the south of Del Rio. They said they needed to get home and did not have money for a hotel. They did not have a cellphone.
Friday, Sept. 17, 6 p.m.
U.S. Customs and Border Protection officials close the Del Rio International Bridge leading to the northern Mexican border town of Acuña during Friday night rush-hour. Hundreds of motorists and pedestrians, including many on bicycles, wait on the side of the highway hoping the bridge will reopen. No explanation was given to motorists and no warning was issued to locals before the bridge was closed. Many travelers told Border Report they were trying to return home to Acuña after working the week in the United States and had suitcases in hand. (BELOW: Motorists and pedestrians wait, some with suitcases, in shock as the Del Rio International Bridge was closed before sunset. Photos by Sandra Sanchez/Border Report.)
Friday, Sept. 17, 12 p.m.
Del Rio Mayor Bruno Lozano holds a press conference and announces he has signed an emergency declaration to shut southbound lanes of the Del Rio International Bridge, prevent traffic to Mexico due to 11,500 migrants living under the bridge, most from Haiti.
Friday, Sept. 17, 9:30 a.m.
Border Report walked over the Del Rio International Bridge to Acuña, Mexico, and saw migrants building tents out of Carrizo cane from the banks of the Rio Grande, sleeping on boxes and piles of trash.
Sandra Sanchez can be reached at Ssanchez@borderreport.com.