Over the last several days a crowd of migrants awaiting U.S. processing outside a Texas border community has grown to more than 10,000. The migrants, mostly from Haiti, have been sheltering under a major bridge as the Biden administration tries to speed up processing. Washington Post reporter Arelis Hernández joins Amna Nawaz from Del Rio, Texas to discuss the scene.
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Arelis Hernandez, The Washington Post:
So, I'm in the car because I got a glimpse of what the improvised encampment looks like.
You can't see that much. What you see are people sort of huddled beneath this bridge because it offers some shade from the sun out here. And there are just thousands of people. There are some people who have made shelters out of carrizo cane that lines the river.
People have brought blankets over and tried to make little shelters there. But it's just overcrowded. There's human refuse, I'm told by people who've been closer to the situation. And the sheriff here in Val Verde County did not take us closer because of what he described as, in his words, right, Third World country conditions and it being pretty dangerous.
Amna Nawaz Arelis, the top Border Patrol union official in Del Rio Sector called this a logistical nightmare. We know that Customs and Border Protection says they're surging personnel to try to deal with it.
Can you tell from your reporting and what you have seen what is needed and how much support is actually being given for this community?
Well, so, at last count, I just heard from Border Patrol there are 13, 700 people there.
And we have no idea whether they have been tested for COVID, whether they have had any interactions with the virus. So that's one thing, sort of a public health thing. They have got portable toilets. They're passing out water. It looked like DHS is clearing out some land to create some sort of processing center.
But in terms of the needs, I mean, people are hungry. People need shelter from the sun, bathing facilities to keep clean in that environment, and just space, honestly. It's sort of a confined space that they're being relegated to right now or that they're pushing themselves into right now.
Amna Nawaz It's also been reported they are mostly from Haiti. I wonder if you can confirm that, based on what you heard from officials or anyone you talked to, and what else you can tell us about why they have come now and why to Del Rio.
Well, so, when I spoke to some of the migrants yesterday on the Mexican side in Ciudad Acuna, like, people are crossing back and forth pretty regularly to get things that they need.
But it's a mix of folks who have left in recent months or recent weeks from Haiti and other countries and other people who have been migrating for years and have spent years in South America and Central America and decided to make the trip north now.
And there are all kinds of different reasons why they're coming. They're hearing that the opportunity is there through their own community networks and social media networks. Some of them have run out of money or have finally built enough cash to make the trip.
The conditions in their particular home countries might have reached a head, and which impulsed them out and made the urgency that much greater. There are all kinds of reasons.
And when I spoke to this one father, he's a computer engineer back in Haiti. And he crossed over to the Mexican side to cry. He didn't want his wife and his 3-year-old daughter to see him cry. And he went over to the Mexican pack to do that, because the situation has been so overwhelming, and his reason being that he has family in the United States and the opportunity that he seeks is here.
Amna Nawaz Arelis, is there any sense of what happens next with these thousands of migrants?
So, it looks as though federal authorities are ramping up the amount of personnel and resources.
All day, we have seen trucks coming in and out of this particular area with food, with portable toilets, with more troops that are coming down here. So I think probably the next step for DHS is to surge personnel, to figure out a way to quickly process these individuals, some of which might be eligible for release into the country.
We will also probably see deportation flights begin. Some of those fights had started in the nearby Air Force base here in Del Rio. We will probably see those ramp up here in the next several days.
Amna Nawaz That is Arelis Hernandez of The Washington Post reporting for us from Del Rio, Texas, tonight.
Arelis, thank you for your time.