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U.S. will prioritize single adult Haitians, some families for deportation from Texas bridge throng

WASHINGTON — The Biden administration will prioritize all single adult Haitians and some Haitian families for deportation, after more than 15,000 mostly Haitian migrants converged on a Texas border bridge, say two senior Department of Homeland Security officials.

Unaccompanied children and some families will be allowed to stay in the U.S. and given dates for asylum hearings, the senior DHS officials said. Thousands of others will be deported to Haiti, including families who do not claim asylum and all single adults.

Many have not seen Haiti since they fled to Latin American countries after the 2010 earthquake or other natural or political crises.

Immigration and Customs Enforcement will begin flying six to eight deportation flights per day starting Tuesday, the officials said. There were three deportation flights on Sunday. DHS Secretary Mayorkas will visit Del Rio on Monday for a briefing and meet with state and local officials.

Over the weekend, Customs and Border Protection closed the Del Rio International Bridge, diverting traffic to nearby Eagle Pass, Texas, and surged 400 agents to the area. Texas state troopers began blocking migrants from crossing over the Rio Grande to prevent them congregating under the bridge. Border Patrol Chief Raul Ortiz said Sunday that the agency had moved 3,300 migrants of the crowd of 15,000 out from under the bridge.

The senior DHS officials said multiple women went into labor among the throngs packed under the bridge, but all babies were delivered safe and healthy.

A U.S. Border Patrol agent on horseback tries to stop a Haitian migrant from entering an encampment on the banks of the Rio Grande near the Acuna Del Rio International Bridge in Del Rio, Texas on Sept. 19, 2021.Paul Ratje / AFP – Getty Images

Typically, ICE tests all migrants for Covid-19 before deporting them, even taking migrants off of flights and placing them in quarantine. But in a rush to cut the size of the crowd as fast as possible, the Haitian deportees are not being tested before deportation, the officials said.

Though deportees were not tested, they were screened for symptoms. A DHS spokeswoman said of the three flights that left Sunday, “All passengers were medically screened prior to boarding the flights. Additionally, migrants and staff were provided with and required to wear personal protective equipment (PPE) (i.e., masks) prior to, and during, the flight, and to be cleared for travel were required to have a temperature of less than 100.4 degrees and to not exhibit Covid-related symptoms.”

The spokeswoman did not comment on who would be prioritized for deportation.

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