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UPDATE: Migrant camp along Texas border shrinks as removals ramp up

CIUDAD ACU’A, Mexico (AP) — A camp where more than 14,000 migrants had waited along the Texas border just days ago was dramatically smaller today, while across the river in Mexico, Haitian migrants in a growing camp awoke surrounded by security forces as a helicopter thundered overhead.

The number of migrants at the Texas camp had been reduced to around 4,000, Department of Homeland Security officials said today, after authorities ramped up efforts in the last day or so to remove migrants.

Officials said about 1,400 had been expelled to Haiti and 3,200 transferred to other Border Patrol sectors to be processed either for expulsion or potential release, while several thousand have returned to Mexico. They also said the DHS is working with other countries to take some Haitians.

The United States and Mexico appeared eager to end the increasingly politicized humanitarian situation at the border, even as the U.S. expulsion of Haitians to their troubled homeland caused blowback for the administration of President Joe Biden.

The Biden administration’s special envoy to Haiti, Daniel Foote, submitted a letter of resignation protesting the “inhumane” large-scale expulsions of Haitian migrants, U.S. officials said today.

In Mexico, migrants who had camped in a park beside the river in Ciudad Acuña found state police trucks spaced every 30 feet or so between their tents and the water’s edge. Still, after anxious minutes of indecision, dozens of families opted to hustle into the river and cross at a point where there was only one municipal police vehicle, calculating it was better to take their chances with U.S. authorities.

The entrance to the park was blocked and just outside, National Guard troops and immigration agents waited along with three buses. A helicopter flew overhead.

The camp’s usual early morning hum was silenced as migrants tried to decide what to do.

Guileme Paterson, a 36-year-old from Haiti, appeared dazed. “It is a difficult moment,” she said before beginning to cross the Rio Grande with her husband and their four children.

The Mexican authorities’ operation appeared designed to drive the migrants back across the river into Texas. A fence line and the line of state police vehicles funneled the migrants back to the crossing point they had been using all week.

The buses that had been waiting left empty. The majority of the camp’s migrants remained.

“Bad, bad, bad, things are going badly,” said Michou Petion, carrying her 2-year-old son in her arms toward the river. Her husband carried bags of their belongings and had several pairs of sneakers dangling around his neck.

“The U.S. is deporting a lot to Haiti, now I don’t know if I can enter or leave,” Petion said.

“We’re talking to a lot of people and they are nervous, they’re afraid, they’re desperate,” said Christoph Jankhoefer of the humanitarian organization Doctors Without Borders, which is working in the Ciudad Acuña camp. “Two women were crying because they didn’t want to be deported to Guatemala.”

In recent weeks, Mexican authorities had been dropping off migrants from other countries at the Guatemalan border.

On the U.S. side, the government had been accelerating efforts to clear the camp in recent days, releasing many migrants with notices to appear later before immigration authorities and flying hundreds of Haitians back to their country.

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