DEL RIO, Texas (KXAN) — Texas Gov. Greg Abbott estimated there are 8,600 migrants still near the international bridge in Del Rio, and he said during an update Tuesday there’s “no intention to depart this location until it’s fully restored to total control.”
He spoke from the bridge along with Texas Department of Public Safety Director Steve McCraw, Texas Military Department Adjutant General Tracy Norris and Brandon Judd, the National Border Patrol Council President.
Abbott asked President Joe Biden earlier in the week for an emergency declaration in response to the influx of migrants in Del Rio, where mainly Haitian immigrants have arrived, according to KXAN news partner Border Report. Abbott said while it would start with affected counties along the border, it could be expanded to the entire state if needed.
In a letter, Abbott said the federal government hasn’t enforced immigration law and didn’t stop people from illegally crossing into the country on a dam located on federal property.
“Border security is a federal responsibility; however, in response to the current situation, I have taken the appropriate action under state law by directing the execution of the state’s emergency management plan and by declaring a state of disaster on May 31, 2021, for multiple Texas counties across the state’s southern border,” the letter reads. “This surge poses life-threatening risks to residents of Val Verde County and is quickly overrunning law enforcement and health care and humanitarian resources which were never intended to be used in this capacity.”
Abbott said in an effort to take control of the situation, the Texas Department of Public Safety formed a barrier with state trooper vehicles in order to stop people from crossing the dam in Del Rio.
Abbott lashed out at the Biden administration for its border policies, saying it has “shown no capability of being able to process all of these migrants by the end of the week.”
“The only thing they’ve shown is the incapability of dealing with this crisis, candidly, in a way where they pretend it doesn’t even exist. We’re here to tell you, it exists, it’s total chaos, and the Biden administration needs to up their game, big time,” he said.
White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki defended the Biden administration Monday, saying that it has not been encouraging these migrants to come to the United States at this time.
“We’ve been conveying that this is not the time to come,” Psaki said. “Now is not the time to come for a range of reasons, including we don’t have the immigration system up and running in the way we want, including there is still a pandemic and Title 42 remains in place. And these are the steps that we’re taking in part to protect the border communities as well as the migrants themselves.”
The U.S. government is ramping up expulsion flights to Haiti on Tuesday, and Mexico has begun flying and busing some away from the border. American officials say more than 6,000 Haitians and other migrants have been removed from the encampment around a bridge in Del Rio.
Jessica Bolter, an associate policy analyst at the Migration Policy Institute, said there has been a noticeable shift of migrants coming to America after President Trump left office, due to the change in rhetoric.
“There is some degree of a perception that it’s easier to get into the U.S. under the Biden administration,” she said.
But it is misleading when Republicans say the Biden administration has an “open border policy.” U.S. Customs and Border protection turned away more than 500,000 people in the months of February through June this year at the Southwest border. Migrants seeking asylum still have to get approval from the federal government first, before they can stay.
Bolter says the current situation in Del Rio, if anything, shows the need for clear policy reform and communication about what those changes are.
“I think it just conveys both the desperation of potential migrants who are who are arriving at the border, it conveys the confusion about what the policy is at the border,” she said. “It’s obviously a really tough situation that hopefully, by implementing some of these solutions, we can start to avoid more of these in the future.”
She said one of the most important changes needs to be processing asylum claims faster. In August, the Biden administration proposed changes that would help speed up that process for migrants coming to the U.S. southern border with Mexico.
Many of the Haitians in Del Rio will likely seek asylum, due to the recent assassination of the country’s president, increasing gang violence, and repeated natural disasters.
“A lot of these Haitian migrants are actually coming not from Haiti, but from countries in South America — like Brazil and Chile — where they migrated in the years following the 2010 earthquake in Haiti,” Bolter said. “So while most migrants are coming directly from Haiti, returning them to Haiti could be really dangerous.”