Why 15,000 Migrants Ended Up in One Spot on the U.S.-Mexico Border

7 min read
The Biden administration's response to the migrant crisis comes straight from Trump's playbook: try to deter more from coming. It's not working.
I followed one bus to the Del Rio airport, where I watched a Coast Guard flight, loaded up with families with young children, including mothers with babies in their arms, take off. While the Department of Homeland Security says that some of these flights are taking families to be "processed elsewhere," the department has also acknowledged it will expel families who do not request asylum. However, lawyers working with people in the camp say they've heard that CBP is not performing any "credible fear" interviews — the first and most basic step in the asylum process — and thus it's unclear if families know they even have the right to make such a request. DHS did not respond to questions about how many families have been deported, whether or not credible fear interviews have been conducted or where the Coast Guard flight I witnessed would land.

Still, with so many people for CBP to process, not everyone in the camp has faced automatic expulsion. Every day, people ostensibly deemed too vulnerable to be immediately returned to their home country have been released into Del Rio. This has included pregnant women, travelers with disabling injuries and families with young children, but there are no clear criteria for who gets released and who gets expelled. (Most single adults are being expelled.) Many of the released migrants themselves are unsure of why they've been allowed to cross while others have been left behind. One Venezuelan woman was allowed into the town; her twin sister was forced to stay in the camp. Such a lack of order has created a tense and chaotic situation south of the Rio Grande, where people still in Mexico face an opaque sort of lottery with severe stakes: There is incentive to cross — after all, CBP is letting some people into the U.S. But hundreds more are being deported to potentially perilous home countries. With no sign of better options, it's a chance many are willing to take.

Nephtalie, like almost all the Haitians in Del Rio, did not arrive…
Jack Herrera
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