McALLEN, Texas (Border Report) — U.S. Customs and Border Protection has processed about 2,000 migrants from Del Rio — most Haitians — in a new tent facility built in Laredo, Texas, the city’s mayor told Border Report on Monday.
Laredo Mayor Pete Saenz said the first bus loads of migrants from Del Rio, Texas, began arriving at 6 a.m. Friday and were continually brought throughout the weekend.
Federal officials on Friday afternoon announced all the 15,000 migrants living under the Del Rio International Bridge had been removed. The bridge was partially reopened to passenger vehicles on Saturday and opened to cargo traffic on Monday after being shut down for a week due to the migrant surge.
As federal officials scrambled to remove the migrants, thousands were sent to other border cities in the Southwest. But facilities quickly filled to capacity and that’s when CBP announced it had built a new 100,000-square-foot soft-sided tent facility about 15 miles south of Laredo to aid in the processing of migrants.
A Border Patrol agent is seen at a bank of computers were 2,000 Haitian migrants from Del Rio, Texas, were processed in a new tent facility that opened in Laredo, Texas, over the weekend. Migrants from the Rio Grande Valley are expected to be sent to the tents for processing, Laredo Mayor Pete Saenz says. (CBP Photos)
Processing takes about 12 hours and then migrants are either repatriated on flights back to Haiti from the Laredo International Airport, or allowed to board buses or flights to U.S. cities if granted humanitarian asylum by the Department of Homeland Security, Saenz said.
In addition to Haitians from Del Rio, the tent facility in Laredo will also begin receiving migrants from Central America who cross into South Texas in the Rio Grande Valley in cities like McAllen, Mission and Rio Grande City. If they do, Saenz said they will resume bussing the migrants to other cities without allowing them to stay in Laredo.
“My understanding is there’s no other Haitians now in Del Rio, and they’re gearing up to continue their operations as they had been bringing from the (Rio Grande) Valley area, but we haven’t been told yet. We just got done with the Haitians this weekend,” Saenz said. “And if they do, our policy will continue for us to bus them out.”
Two months ago the city began operating controversial charter buses — at the city’s expense — to ship the migrants who came from the RGV to Houston and Austin because of what Saenz called a “public health crisis” as 40% of the migrants from the RGV were testing positive for coronavirus.
The city even sued the federal government to stop the relocation of migrants from McAllen, Mission and Rio Grande City to Laredo, three hours west.
The buses stopped a few weeks ago after much pushback from the mayor in Houston who was fearful the migrants could be bringing COVID-19 to the metroplex.
On Monday, Saenz said CBP officials assured him all the migrants being brought from Del Rio and the Rio Grande Valley will be medically screened and those who appear to have coronavirus symptoms would not be bussed to Laredo.
Nevertheless, Saenz said his city is prepared to resume charter busses for the migrants if they are brought to Laredo. And, this time they are adding something new: They plan to vaccinate all migrants received in Laredo before they bus them to cities elsewhere, he told Border Report.
“That’s a change to our policy. We really haven’t started that because we haven’t had people to bus out but if we should bus out, our policy will be to vaccinate for COVID. We’re not testing. We’re just vaccinating,” Saenz said.
Sandra Sanchez can be reached at Ssanchez@borderreport.com