As immigration agents continue to fly thousands of migrants camped in this border city to other processing centers or back to their home countries, state troopers have built a mile-long “steel wall” of patrol vehicles to deter more people from crossing the Rio Grande into an encampment beneath the Del Rio international bridge.
As per Val Verde County Sheriff Joe Frank Martinez, as many as 15,000 migrants, many of whom are Haitians, had crossed the river in recent days seeking asylum, but that number had fallen to an estimated 6,200 sleeping under the bridge on Tuesday morning.
It’s unclear how officials decide which migrants are allowed to apply for asylum and which are flown back to their countries of origin, but many of the migrants who were let into the country while their asylum claims were pending were families with small children and pregnant women, according to a charter bus stop at a gas station here.
Many of them were carrying yellow numbered tickets, and Border Patrol agents stated they were divided into groups based on the color of the tickets: yellow for pregnant women, blue for families with children, and red and green for single men and women.
As immigration officers seek to evacuate the migrants from beneath the bridge, Martinez said 700 state troopers are patrolling around the migrant encampment and throughout the city. Martinez stated that some are being taken to other immigrant processing centers in El Paso, Laredo, and Weslaco. The World Central Kitchen, a non-profit organization that feeds people in the aftermath of natural disasters, has begun preparing food for the remaining migrants.
U.S. Border Patrol Chief Raul L. Ortiz, a Del Rio native, claimed on Sunday that no additional migrants were crossing the river into the camp. An inquiry to the Border Patrol asking if there have been any other crossings since then went unanswered. Although the numbers have reduced, Martinez claimed that roughly 50 families or individuals were handed tickets on Tuesday night. Gov. Greg Abbott blamed the migrants’ detention on a “steel wall” of Department of Public Safety vehicles.
Abbott has made immigration enforcement a top priority for his administration, with plans to build more barriers along the Texas-Mexico border, arrest and prosecute migrants crossing the Rio Grande on state charges, and sue the Biden administration for what the governor has called President Joe Biden’s “open-border policies.”