As U.S. deports Haitian migrants, fate of DACA immigrants also hangs in the balance

Thousands of migrants — most of whom are from Haiti — have been removed from an encampment in the town of Del Rio, Texas, along the U.S. southern border as U.S. officials have started to take more aggressive steps to stop the encampment from growing further. Major recent developments in Congress will also touch on the broader U.S. immigration policy. Yamiche Alcindor and Lisa Desjardins report.

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  • Judy Woodruff:

    The crisis on the U.S. Southern border deepens tonight.

    Thousands of Haitian migrants who descended on the town of Del Rio, Texas are now being deported. Thousands remain encamped under a bridge in dire conditions. And most of those sent home return to a chaotic Haiti, reeling from one disaster after another.

    There are also major developments in Congress, touching on the fate of U.S. immigration policy more broadly.

    Yamiche Alcindor begins with the situation in Del Rio.

  • Yamiche Alcindor:

    Today, in Del Rio, Texas, Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas saw firsthand the tense situation there. He pledged to continue immigration enforcement, while also dealing with the migrants' humanitarian needs.

    Alejandro Mayorkas, U.S. Secretary of Homeland Security: It is extraordinarily challenging. As I said at the outset, it is very, very heartbreaking. We are surging resources, not only to ensure the security of this area, the security of the community, but also the well-being of the migrants themselves.

  • Yamiche Alcindor:

    In recent days, the crowd of migrants in the Texas border town swelled to more than 14,000. They sheltered under and near this Del Rio bridge. They had been waiting to be processed, but in squalid and sweltering conditions and with food and supplies constantly running short.

  • Pierre Gensler, Haitian Immigrant (through translator):

    There is not enough food to give to everybody who is inside there. We need to get out of the camp to look for food.

  • Yamiche Alcindor:

    Many of them are migrants from Haiti who fear returning there right now, both in the wake of the earthquake this summer that jolted the country and in the aftermath of the assassination of Haiti's president.

    Over the weekend, U.S. authorities stepped up their efforts to slow the flow of migrants to that part of the border. Agents on horseback, with rope in hand, aggressively confronted some migrants who were trying to make their way to the Del Rio encampment.

    Photos and videos of the scene, as well as the mass deportations, have led to an intense backlash. The White House press secretary called the images horrific.

    Is it the president's stance or the White House's stance that whoever these border agents are using what seems to be whips on migrants, that they would be fired, or at least never be able to do that again?

  • Jen Psaki, White House Press Secretary:

    Of course they should never be able to do it again. I don't know what the circumstances would be. It's obviously horrific, the footage. I don't have any more information on it, so let me venture to do that, and we will see if there's more to convey.

  • Yamiche Alcindor:

    The U.S. has started deporting many of the migrants back to Haiti and other countries en masse. On Sunday, more than 300 deported migrants landed in the Haitian capital of Port-au-Prince.

  • Stephanie, Deported Haitian Migrant (through translator):

    I left Haiti to go find a better future, because, here in Haiti, all of us young people, despite finishing our studies, cannot get any work.

    We are on the streets with nothing. That is why there are many youngsters on the street. There are many criminals. It is because the authorities do not think about us.

  • Yamiche Alcindor:

    Today, back in Del Rio, a DHS official said that the encampment there has started to shrink.

    Mayorkas added that the agency is still working to ramp up deportation flights.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    And we turn now to Yamiche at the White House. And Lisa Desjardins is here with me in the studio.

    So, Yamiche, to you first.

    You have been covering this crisis in Haiti. You also have been talking to human rights activists on the ground there in Texas. What are they telling you and — about all of this, and how is the White House reacting?

  • Yamiche Alcindor:

    Well, both human rights activists and the White House describe the situation that's playing out in Texas with these migrants mostly of Haitian descent as heartbreaking.

    Now, human rights activists, and, specifically Haitian American activists, they say this is really the Biden administration treating thee migrants cruelly and inhumanely. I have been talking to a lot of people who are very angry and say President Biden promised Haitian Americans in particular when they were trying — when he was trying to win their votes, but Haitians overall around the country, that he was going to treat people in a more dignified way than his predecessor, former President Trump.

    But there are a lot of people tonight saying these images prove that President Biden is not doing that and not keeping his word.

    Now, I should also note that there are human rights activists who say that sending people back into Haiti, a country that is facing so many crises, from gang violence to, of course, the aftermath of the assassination of the president and the aftermath of the earthquake, that it is simply not the right thing to do.

    One activist put it this way. She told me: "Sending people back into Haiti is like sending children into a burning house."

    That said, the Haitian government officially is saying, we can take these folks. But the head of the Haitian National Migration Office, he said that he would like to see a pause in these deportations, if possible. The White House, though, is saying that there's not going to be a pause, that this is what needs to happen, that these deportation flights will continue, and that people do not have the right to remain in the United States, even though there are a number of people, including activists, who say that there is due process here and that these migrants should be allowed to be able to file for asylum in this country.

    But, of course, under Title 42, which is a Trump era rule, people are being Fed back under the idea of a public health crisis, and the fact that — and saying that the fact that the United States simply cannot absorb these people at this time.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    And, meanwhile, as all this is going on, Lisa, you have been reporting on this development on Capitol Hill that affect — could affect millions of undocumented immigrants who came to this country as children.

    Remind us what happened.

  • Lisa Desjardins:

    Everyone following the dreamers' situation, those who are here on temporary protected status, millions and millions of immigrants, a major decision in the last day.

    This surrounds budget reconciliation, that big word we have been talking about that is really Democrats best chance to pass their most kind controversial or difficult legislation.

    Let me remind people what we're talking about, first of all. Budget reconciliation is the process by which you just need 51 votes to get something through the Senate, not 60. Democrats would like to use that to include immigration, because they don't have 60 votes for immigration reform, but they may get 51.

    Now it has to have a budgetary effect, is the thing. OK, so who decides whether any piece of legislation has enough of a budgetary effect? I can hear our viewers, some of them, saying it out loud. The Senate parliamentarian.

    She issued a ruling to Senate leaders last night. And in it, she said — that's Elizabeth MacDonough, the parliamentarian — she wrote: "Giving this legal permanent status to these undocumented immigrants would give these persons freedom to work, freedom to live openly in our society. Changing the law to clear the way to that status is tremendous and enduring policy change that dwarfs its budgetary impact."

    Essentially, she's saying you're trying to get around the purpose of budget reconciliation to do large policy changes. And I'm not going to allow that. It does not fit with this process.

    That is a body blow to what Democrats hope to do. It is a win for conservatives, who want to block it.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    And, Lisa, what does it mean overall for immigration reform broadly going forward?

  • Lisa Desjardins:

    It depends on who you speak with.

    Those activists I talked to today still hold out hope that there might be some kind of window. Democrats in the Senate will try some other kind of maneuvers that we may talk about in coming days. But this was their main form of attacking this issue. Think of it as a political wall.

    And now this space that — this narrow opening is even smaller.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    So, back to you, Yamiche.

    You now not only have this crisis on the border. You have what's gone on at the Capitol. How is the White House looking at all of this?

  • Yamiche Alcindor:

    Well, the White House says that President Biden is still very much dedicated to having a sort of humane and fixed immigration process, and that he — officials told me today he inherited this broken immigration system and wants to see it fixed.

    That being said, White House officials, a number of them, today said that they were — quote — "deeply disappointed" at the Senate parliamentarian's ruling that this immigration, this path to citizenship couldn't go into the reconciliation bill.

    That being said, the White House says they're hoping that maybe senators can find a way to put it back into that bill or that immigration reform can pass on its own in some way. It's, of course, a very, very hard thing to get through, something that Democrats and Republicans have tried to work on for years.

    The other thing to note is that the White House is saying this is on a list of other things that they want to get done, including voting rights, including policing reform, including abortion rights and protecting them. So this is really just another challenge for this White House that is facing a number of challenges.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    The challenges just pile up.

    Yamiche Alcindor at the White House, Lisa Desjardins here in the studio, thank you both.

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