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Sept. 20, 2021, 8:24 a.m. EDT

U.S. ramps up plan to expel Haitian migrants gathered in Texas

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DHS said, “our borders are not open, and people should not make the dangerous journey.”

“Individuals and families are subject to border restrictions, including expulsion,” the agency wrote. “Irregular migration poses a significant threat to the health and welfare of border communities and to the lives of migrants themselves, and should not be attempted.”

Stephen Miller, the main architect of former President Donald Trump’s hardline policies and a frequent critic of the Biden administration, expressed doubt that Haiti’s government would agree to the number of flights for a large-scale operation.

He recounted daily calls with U.S. State Department officials last year over Haiti’s resistance to flights, with Haiti relenting only under the threat of sanctions.

About 500 Haitians were ordered off buses by Mexican immigration authorities in the state of Tamaulipas, about 120 miles (200 kilometers) south of the Texas border, the state government said in a news release Friday. They continued toward the border on foot.

U.S. authorities are being severely tested after Biden quickly dismantled Trump administration policies that Biden considered cruel or inhumane, most notably one requiring asylum-seekers to remain in Mexico while waiting for U.S. immigration court hearings.

A pandemic-related order to immediately expel migrants without giving them the opportunity to seek asylum that was introduced in March 2020 remains in effect, but unaccompanied children and many families have been exempt. During his first month in office, Biden chose to exempt children traveling alone on humanitarian grounds.

Nicole Phillips, legal director for advocacy group Haitian Bridge Alliance, said Saturday that the U.S. government should process migrants and allow them to apply for asylum, not rush to expel them.

“It really is a humanitarian crisis,” Phillips said. “There needs to be a lot of help there now.”

Mexico has agreed to take in expelled families only from Mexico, Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador, creating an opening for Haitians and other nationalities.

Mexico’s immigration agency said in a statement Saturday that Mexico has opened a “permanent dialogue” with Haitian government representatives “to address the situation of irregular migratory flows during their entry and transit through Mexico, as well as their assisted return.”

The agency didn’t specify if it was referring to the Haitians in Ciudad Acuña or to the thousands of others in Tapachula, at the Guatemalan border, and the agency didn’t immediately reply to a request for further details.

In August, U.S. authorities stopped migrants nearly 209,000 times at the border, which was close to a 20-year high even though many of the stops involved repeat crossers because there are no legal consequences for being expelled under the pandemic authority.

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