CIUDAD ACUÑA, Mexico, September 16 (Reuters) – Thousands of migrants converged under the bridge that connects Del Rio, Texas, and Ciudad Acuña, Mexico, creating a makeshift camp with few basic services amid intense heat during of the latest border emergency facing US President Joe Biden.
Del Rio mayor Bruno Lozano said that early Thursday evening 10,503 migrants were under the Del Rio international bridge, up from 8,200 in the morning.
Food and water are scarce, around 20 migrants told Reuters, and temperatures have reached about 99 degrees Fahrenheit (37 degrees Celsius). Reuters has seen hundreds of migrants cross the Rio Grande River and return to Mexico to stock up on basic necessities they say they don’t get from the U.S. side.
The migrants are mostly Haitians, with Cubans, Venezuelans and Nicaraguans also present.
The squalid conditions reflect the humanitarian challenge Biden faces as border arrests hover around 20-year highs. US authorities arrested more than 195,000 migrants at the Mexican border in August, according to government data released Wednesday.
Ernesto, a 31-year-old Haitian migrant, returned to Mexico on Thursday to purchase water and food – for the fourth time, he said, since arriving in the United States on Monday morning. Ernesto, who declined to give his last name to protect his identity, said he and his 3-year-old daughter were not fed at the camp, where migrants scramble for shade.
Sometimes, he said, he runs to avoid Mexican migration agents but is usually not bothered by them. “But now the money is running out,” he added.
The migrants showed Reuters tickets with numbers they had received from the US Border Patrol. Several said other migrants told them they could be stuck in the camp for up to five days.
The border patrol said in a statement that it was increasing its strength in Del Rio to facilitate a “safe, humane and orderly process.” Drinking water, towels and portable toilets have been provided, the statement added, while the migrants wait to be transported to the facilities.
Biden, a Democrat who took office in January, has called off many of the harsh immigration measures of his Republican predecessor, former President Donald Trump.
But he has been caught between pro-migrant groups and some Democrats who have criticized him for not doing more to help migrants, and opponents who say his policies have encouraged illegal immigration.
Del Rio is in Val Verde County, which voted for Trump in 2020. Some residents of this sprawling bilingual border town say they feel abandoned by the federal government when it comes to border security.
“Are they doing something to stop them from coming?” A woman said as she looked at the encampment as she crossed the bridge.
‘WHEN DO WE LEAVE?’
Carlos, a 27-year-old Venezuelan who said he left his home after graduating from college in July, said he believed the camp had doubled in size since arriving on Tuesday. Carlos, who declined to give his full name, said he only had $ 10 left and there were 400 families ahead of him in the queue for treatment.
Migrants and Mexican officials said many more are expected in the coming days. Some told Reuters they chose to cross here because the river is shallow and they felt there was comparatively less cartel activity.
Jeff Jeune, a 27-year-old Haitian who sold bottled water for a profit of 3 pesos (15 cents), said he and his young family were exhausted, starving and sleeping on the floor. He worried that his children were falling ill in the makeshift camp.
“My ten-year-old asks, ‘When are we leaving?’ He always asks that. “
Reporting by Alexandra Ulmer, editing by Ross Colvin, Diane Craft and Rosalba O’Brien
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