DEL RIO, Texas (Border Report) – US Border Patrol Chief Raul Ortiz returned to his South Texas roots on Sunday to brief the media on the thousands of migrants gathering under an international bridge in the border town , and to say that federal officials are getting the situation under control.
Ortiz said there are currently 12,662 migrants – mostly Haitians – living under the Del Rio International Bridge. The bridge remained closed for the third day on Sunday due to safety concerns. But Ortiz said the number had dropped by 3,300 since Saturday, when there were nearly 15,000 migrants under the bridge to the Mexican border town of Acuña.
Ortiz also said 400 border patrol officers had been dispatched to Del Rio.
“We have taken a number of steps to ensure the safety and security of migrants, the local community and our agents and partners as they strive to cope with the increase in arrivals in Del Rio, Texas,” Ortiz said. “We are working around the clock to quickly move migrants out of the thermal elements and under this bridge to our processing facility to quickly process and remove individuals from the United States in accordance with our laws and policies.”
Ortiz said they plan to move 3,000 more migrants in the next 24 hours, and he punctuated that by saying “no one has been past midnight” in Del Rio.
Flights began at 3:30 a.m. Sunday from Laughlin Air Force Base near Del Rio, carrying Haitian migrants to their country of origin. Another flight left at 7:30 a.m. and several more were scheduled, Ortiz said.
Del Rio Mayor Bruno Lozano said flights have also started on two types of planes departing from Del Rio International Airport.
Lozano did not speak at the press conference, but later told some media outlets that he was grateful to federal officials for sending resources and said he spoke with Home Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas early Sunday.
“I actually spoke to him one-on-one about the dire situation at Del Rio,” Lozano said. “And that’s the action behind us. So I want to thank all of the departments and agencies that are working in tandem to help alleviate the border patrol’s mission of moving people from below the bridge to other areas to continue their treatment.
Lozano took to social media and took to national media last week to seek help from the Biden administration in a situation he called an out of control crisis and that the border town of just 35,000 residents couldn’t handle.
Lozano also had positive comments about Mexican officials across the Rio Grande.
“I think the state of Coahuila is definitely stepping up its game to help the city of Acuña,” he said in response to a question from Border Report.
He said that although the city of Del Rio suffers economically from a shortage of maquiladora factories – “to the tune of thousands of dollars per hour” – he said closing the bridge was a necessary measure.
“It hits everyone financially. It hits our wallet. But I think it has an impact… by preventing migrants from crossing at the points there, ”he said.
At least five babies were born in Del Rio last week, one under the bridge, local officials said.
One of the babies, born Wednesday, boarded a bus at 11:30 am for San Antonio on Sunday. Val Verde Border Humanitarian Coalition director Tiffany Burrow held the swaddled three-day-old newborn baby as the baby’s parents received transportation assistance from Burrow staff to the Stripes gas station, which also serves city Greyhound bus stop.
Burrow’s organization is the city’s only migrant shelter and lacks the capacity to house migrants overnight. The facility, just a mile from the border fence that lines the riverbank here, provides federally released migrants with a place to shower, food and drink and a change of clothes and helps them organize their trip. .
On Sundays, however, they meet at the Stripes so workers can attend church. And that’s where Border Report found several vans of migrants dropped off by US Border Patrol agents.
There were around 20 migrants – mostly Haitians – who boarded that bus and many were tired and dehydrated as they sat in the triple-digit heat waiting to leave.
They took turns charging cell phones on an electric charge bank installed outside the ground service station.
Most speak only Creole, but one man spoke Portuguese and he told Border Report that the conditions under the bridge “were very horrible”.
Santiago Pardo, a migrant center volunteer who works for Church World Service, a nonprofit, said migrant advocates have asked Greyhound Bus officials to add buses to Del Rio to help transport the migrants released by DHS.
Ortiz said border patrol agents were sending migrants to other cities for processing, such as El Paso and Laredo.
Burrow received around 100 migrants on Saturday, including the first two buses dropped off by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement.
To meet the demands, community volunteers regularly bring in trucks full of donated goods, including cases of bottled water. And some residents come in with arms full of juice boxes, which Burrow says is especially popular with migrant children.
“They’re exhausted but they’re also impatient and thinking about their final destination,” Burrow said. “So a little shower, a face wash and a toothbrush is definitely a revitalizing moment.”
Burrow’s organization relies on donations, which can be made on their website at VVBHCoalition.com which has an Amazon wishlist, she said.
“We’re going with the flow. Either way, we are here for the long term, not the short term, ”she said.