U.S. officials are reopening an international border crossing in southern Texas that had been closed for more than a week. The port of entry at Del Rio was closed after thousands of migrants set up camp below the international bridge crossing.
U.S. Customs and Border Protection issued a statement outlining plans to allow passenger traffic to resume at 4 p.m. local time Saturday. Officials say they expect to open the crossing for all cargo traffic on Monday at 8 a.m.
The crossing at Del Rio had been closed since Sept. 17 as thousands of migrants, mostly Haitians, began making their way across the Rio Grande River from Mexico and setting up a makeshift encampment under the international bridge.
During the closure, traffic on the U.S. side of the border headed for the Del Rio crossing had been rerouted to Eagle Pass, nearly 60 miles away.
Val Verde County Sheriff Joe Frank Martinez said the past year has been tough on the area, with the crisis at the border being the latest in a string of strains on local officials.
“This year we’ve dealt with a winter storm, we’ve dealt with the pandemic, we’ve dealt with this immigrant crisis. I dealt with a jailbreak — all in a short period of time,” Martinez told NPR.
On the Mexico side of the border, many businesses were struggling because of the Del Rio crossing being closed. Eduardo Hernandez, an auto mechanic, told NPR he lost about 50% of his business over the past couple of weeks.
“Ever since the migrants came here, the situation has been strange,” Hernandez said, noting that he depends on Texas drivers who come to him for cheaper labor.
After thousands of migrants gathered under the Del Rio Bridge, the Biden administration expedited deportation flights to Haiti and elsewhere. By Friday, the last of the migrants had been removed by U.S. officials.
The American Civil Liberties Union and other groups have criticized the U.S. response to the surge of migrants, particularly after border agents on horseback were seen chasing and grabbing people who were carrying food back to their families.
The tactics prompted the resignation of Daniel Foote, a U.S. diplomat to Haiti, who called the Biden administration’s methods “inhumane” and “counterproductive.” A career diplomat, Foote had been in the post as the special envoy for Haiti since July.
Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas said on Friday that about 2,000 people have been deported on flights back to Haiti, while 12,400 have been released into the U.S. while they wait to appear before an immigration judge.
Thousands more Haitians remain in Mexico and others are still making their way north through Central and South America.