Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas said Friday that all of the Haitian migrants have been cleared from the camp in Del Rio, Texas where they had been living in squalor for more than a week.
“As of this morning, there are no longer any migrants in the camp,” he told reporters at a White House press briefing. “Today, we have no migrants under the bridge.”
More than 15,000 Haitian migrants were living under the bridge after surging across the Rio Grande into the U.S. The Biden administration made a concerted effort to close down the encampment under the bridge.
He pushed back against criticism that the deportations were “immoral,” saying it was necessary due to fears the migrants could spread COVID-19. However, he said he didn’t know if any of the refugees were positive for COVID-19 and said none of them were tested.
The administration took a rhetorically tough approach to the crisis, saying it would deport them to Haiti. In reality, while some have been deported, others are being caught and released into communities, including unaccompanied juveniles and families with children.
Mr. Mayorkas said roughly 2,000 Haitian immigrants have been expelled on 17 flights to Haiti and another 12,400 will have their cases heard by an immigration judge.
He also condemned the images of Border Patrol agents on horseback aggressively chasing and grabbing Haitian migrants, which has sparked outrage among lawmakers of both parties and civil rights leaders.
“We know those images painfully conjured up the worst elements of our nation’s ongoing battle against systemic racism,” he said.
Mr. Mayorkas said the DHS response to the images, which surfaced earlier this week, was “swift and thorough.” He said agents in those photographs have been assigned to administrative duties where they are not interacting with migrants.
“Let me be clear, the department does not tolerate any mistreatment of any migrant and will not tolerate any violation of its values, principles and ethics,” he said.
Mr. Mayorkas diverged from President Biden, who earlier in the day vowed the agents involved “will pay.”
“I think the president was speaking in terms of the horror that he observed, seeing the images and what they suggest,” Mr. Mayorkas said. “That investigation will have integrity.”
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