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'The consequences of inaction' | Human rights advocate discusses situation at the border

“What we have is people -- a lot of them have been here waiting for a chance to ask for protection for the past two, three, four, up to five years."

DEL RIO, Texas — Many people don’t hesitate to call the situation involving an influx of migrants at the border “a crisis.” But not everyone.

The Co-founder and Executive Director of the Haitian Bridge Alliance Guerline Jozef says the way she sees it, it’s not a “crisis” or a “surge.”

“What we have is people -- a lot of them have been here waiting for a chance to ask for protection for the past two, three, four, up to five years,” Jozef said. “So now, out of desperation, if somebody tells them good or bad to go somewhere, they might find protection -- they keep going.”

“This is the consequences of inaction, or consequence of cruel policies from the previous administration,” she said. “And the consequences of the inaction of this administration.”

President Donald Trump’s Administration has been criticized by immigration attorneys, human rights advocates and some politicians for what they have called a dismantling of the immigration and asylum system. The administration also closed ports of entry, citing COVID concerns, expelling thousand of migrants under Title 42, a CDC public health rule that allowed the government to remove migrants because of an on-going pandemic.

Leaders in the Republican party, including Texas Senator Ted Cruz, have defended Trump’s policies, saying they worked and should not have been discontinued by the current administration.

President Joe Biden’s administration, while seeing a record number of border crossings, continues to expel migrants under Title 42 authority, saying the majority of people who cross the border are being expelled. Ports of entry remain closed as well for non-essential travel.

“We have not had a way for anyone to seek asylum,” Jozef said. “The border has been closed, specifically for Black migrants and for all migrants.”

“It is the legal thing for them to do to ask for asylum,” she added. “But what we are seeing is the fact that we as a country, the United States, is refusing to provide a way a safe and humane way to welcome people with dignity and give them a chance to actually stake their claim.”

Jozef talked to KENS 5 while in Del Rio, helping the non-profit Val Verde Humanitarian Coalition that was dealing with hundreds of mostly Haitian migrants released from under the bridge in Del Rio, where at one point, an estimated 15,000 people gathered, after crossing the U.S. Mexico border. The Coalition was helping the migrants get on buses out of Del Rio to major cities like Houston and San Antonio, where they had access to major airports to fly out and be reunited with friends or family.

“As they travel in the Black bodies, they have no home,” Jozef told KENS 5. “We respond to them by militarizing our borders against them, and we respond to them by further violence upon their bodies. We remove every ounce of humanity from them, and then put them on a plane, chained. Grown men, grown Black men, being watched by the children, feeling completely hopeless. They want protection for families. They can’t even protect themselves.”

While visiting Del Rio on September 20, including inspecting the situation under the bridge at the time, Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas reiterated the U.S. message that the borders were not open, and the government’s commitment to remove the migrants from the United States.

“We are communicating as we have now for months, loudly and clearly that irregular migration, the perilous journey, is not the journey to take to risk one's life, the life of one's loved ones, for a mission that will not succeed,” Secretary Mayorkas said while addressing reporters.

“It is tragic, to see families of vulnerable individuals who've been deceived by treacherous and exploitive smuggling organizations,” he said. “We in DHS, are securing additional transportation to accelerate the pace and increase the capacity of removal flights to Haiti and other destinations in the Western Hemisphere.”

The removal flights continue, and the number of removed Haitians constantly change. As of late September, nearly 5,000 Haitians have been flown back, according to CBS News reports.

KENS 5 reached out to DHS with multiple questions about removal flights and how migrants are chosen to be removed or kept in the United States. As of this writing, the agency has not provided us answers. We’ll update the story when, and if it does.

Jozef, and other human rights advocates, have criticized these expulsion flights, saying in part they were inhumane -- putting people back in the country after earthquakes and the recent assassination of its President, wasn’t able to handle the influx. 

Returning Haitians there, some of whom have not lived in Haiti for a while, after fleeing to South America, were subjecting the returned migrants to violence, hunger and object poverty, advocates have said.

Texas Governor Greg Abbott, a Republican, who’s running for reelection in 2022, has been outspoken about supporting President Trump’s border efforts, and widely criticizing the Biden Administration for what he calls inaction and open border policies.

“I'm sure most people, when they heard President Biden talk about open borders, they had no idea it would lead to the type of chaos that we witnessed just behind me for day after day after day,” Governor Abbott said while addressing reporters September 21 at the site of the dam across the Rio Grande, where mostly Haitian migrants were documented crossing into the U.S.

“And when you have an administration that is not enforcing the law in this country...when you have an administration that has abandoned any pretense of securing the border and securing our sovereignty, you see the on-rush of people like what we saw walking across this dam that is right behind me," said Gov. Abbott.

By September 24, all migrants have been removed from under the bridge in Del Rio.

But based on the experience this area has had with migration, this is not the first large group of people coming through. And it won’t be the last.

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