Ciudad Acuña, Mexico
Some of the thousands of Haitian migrants who briefly formed a camp in the Texas border town of Del Rio have found a helping hand across the river in Mexico’s Ciudad Acuña.
As US officials announced that the camp on the US side had been cleared, an unknown number of migrants remained in Ciudad Acuña, fearful of hitting the streets after Mexican immigration agents raided a small hotel and surrounded a similar camp on the Mexican side. with agents. .
Some Ciudad Acuña residents took in Haitian families, while others provided them with food and water. Virginia Salazar, a Mexican woman, and her husband Mensah Montant, from the African nation of Togo, were among those who responded to the needs of Haitians.
The couple brought rice to one house, medicine to another and are looking for a mattress for a Haitian family. Mr. Montant knows what it feels like to be a stranger in a strange land: he himself came to Mexico as an immigrant nine years ago and now works as a tailor.
“I come from a migrant family,” said Ms. Salazar, who works as a cleaner. “There is my husband and I have a sister who has documents and another who is illegal,” she said about relatives in the United States. “This comes naturally to me.”
They have helped a dozen Haitians personally, but they don’t know how many may still be hiding here after US authorities cleared the field on the other side.
US officials closed the crossing on Sept. 17 after a mostly Haitian immigrant camp formed around the stretch of the border bridge. The camp was completely cleared of migrants on Friday.
Many of those migrants face removal because they are not covered by the protections recently extended by the Biden administration to the more than 100,000 Haitian migrants already in the US.
About 2,000 Haitians were quickly expelled on 17 flights in the last week and more could be expelled in the coming days.
The prospect of being returned to Haiti prompted many to seek refuge on the Mexican side, even as thousands more are believed to be traveling from South America in an attempt to reach the US border. But Mexico has begun busing some Haitians back to the southernmost part of its own territory and is preparing to send others back to Haiti.
Helping them is not without risks for the residents of Ciudad Acuña, who last week saw thousands of Haitians cross the river into Del Río and then return to the Mexican side to buy food and other necessities.
Mr. Montant was about to bring ice to Etlove Doriscar when Mexican immigration agents surrounded him at his home. “What’s going on, wait! I have my papers, ”he said, showing them his residence in Mexico.
Mr. Montant and Mrs. Salazar met with Mr. Dorsicar when they were handing out food earlier in the week at a smaller camp that sprung up on the Mexican side.
When officers appeared to surround that camp, Mr. Dorsicar, his wife, and their 3-year-old daughter hid in the brush by the river bank until they could reach the couple’s home.
Mr. Montant and Mrs. Salazar found them a house where they could rent a room, a table, and a fan for $ 50 a month. It means the world to the family and a Haitian woman who shares the other room.
“For the first time in days, I didn’t have to sleep with one eye open,” Mr. Dorsicar said.
Andrea García, a stylist, has accommodated six Haitian families in various houses that her family owns in Ciudad Acuña.
“They came to my house alone, with their babies and asked for help; They said there was nowhere they could go, ”Ms. Garcia recalled.
“Yes, I am worried, scared because Mexican immigration agents are breaking into people’s houses and they are not giving them the opportunity in the process” to obtain residency, Garcia said. “But it’s sadder than terrifying to see how they pray when they see an immigration van.”
To stay longer, Haitians must apply for refugee or asylum status, and this is done in the city of Tapachula, in southern Mexico. Because that process is so supported, many Haitians feel that Tapachula has become a trap for them and have tried to walk north, only to be stopped by checkpoints and National Guard troops.
“Tapachula has many migrants, many, and they are not working and they are not receiving documents,” said Dorsicar.
The Mexican government has tried to convince private bus companies not to take Haitians north, and even taxi drivers in Ciudad Acuña feel pressure not to transport them.
Taxi driver Eliseo Ortiz no longer picks up Haitians, after he was fined about $ 900 three months ago. “They accused me of being an immigrant smuggler,” Ortiz said, noting that other drivers paid bribes to the police to keep charging them.
Manuel Casillas, the owner of a Beatles-themed restaurant near the border bridge, has seen Haitians come and go.
“All of this makes me feel bad, not being able to help them or give them work,” Castillas said. Although things have calmed down for now, he said: “I think there will be another wave.”
This story was reported by The Associated Press.