A Biden administration official on Thursday may have fudged numbers when she claimed that progress is being made in dealing with thousands of Haitian migrants who crossed illegally into Texas near Del Rio and established a makeshift camp.
White House press secretary Jen Psaki said during her daily presser that 12 “repatriation flights” had taken place since Sunday, shuttling 1,401 illegal Haitian immigrants back to their country.
In addition, Psaki claimed that 3,206 Haitian migrants “have been moved” from the camp, located underneath the international bridge near the small Texas city, into U.S. Customs and Border Protection custody “or to other sectors of the United States border” where they face immediate deportation, “if possible,” under Title 42, a public health law, or via deportation proceedings in immigration court.
“Therefore, there remain less than 5,000 migrants in the Del Rio sector,” Psaki said.
However, the press secretary’s figures only accounted for some 9,606 Haitian migrants, which is far short of estimates by Fox News and The Associated Press that at least 15,000 mostly Haitian migrants had assembled under and near the bridge by last Saturday.
If those figures are correct, then that would mean roughly 5,400 migrants are now unaccounted for and could now be somewhere inside the United States.
Psaki was asked about the discrepancy during the presser.
“Where’s everybody else?” asked Fox News correspondent Peter Doocy.
“I’m happy to get you a more fruitful rundown for you, if helpful, from the Department of Homeland Security,” said Psaki in response.
DOOCY TIME: "There are 15,000 migrants under the Del Rio bridge Saturday. If you add up the ones that you say were expelled or released, it's less than 5,000. Say there's 5,000 that are still left. Where is everybody else?"
Psaki: "I'm happy to get you a more fruitful rundown." pic.twitter.com/QRH4kVHRVq
— Curtis Houck (@CurtisHouck) September 23, 2021
On Wednesday, however, the Department of Homeland Security confirmed that some Haitians had been released into the United States, according to Fox News, in spite of a warning by DHS Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas that efforts by them to remain in the U.S. “will not succeed.”
“DHS continues to expel migrants under CDC’s Title 42 authority,” a spokesperson from the department told the news network. “Those who cannot be expelled under Title 42 and do not have a legal basis to remain are placed in expedited or full removal proceedings.”
Fox News noted that Title 42, passed under the Trump administration in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, was utilized to rapidly deport people who had crossed illegally into the U.S. But “the Biden administration has only been applying the order to single adults and to some migrant families — with only about 19% of families removed via the order in August,” the network said.
Unaccompanied minors are not being deported, they are instead being placed inside the U.S. with sponsor families.
Earlier this week, in response to reports that thousands of mostly Haitian migrants had gathered under the international bridge and that tens of thousands more were on the way, Mayorkas issued a staunch warning that they would be intercepted and deported.
NEW: The migrant camp underneath the bridge in Del Rio is rapidly being cleared. Heavy equipment is tearing down the makeshift structures, all migrants are now crowded under the bridge, and the open dirt areas are being completely cleared out. Probably around 3,000 left. @FoxNews pic.twitter.com/o5UHgzwf7A
— Bill Melugin (@BillFOXLA) September 23, 2021
“If you come to the United States illegally, you will be returned. Your journey will not succeed and you will be endangering your life and your family’s lives,” he said. “This administration is committed to developing safe, orderly, and humane pathways for migration. This is not the way to do it.”
But on Thursday, in an interview with CNN’s Wolf Blitzer, Mayorkas was vague when asked how many Haitians had been released into the U.S.
“We believe it is a very small percentage of the total that assembled in Del Rio, Texas, and that will be removed,” said the DHS chief.
“Well, what does that mean?” asked a confused Blitzer. “About 15,000, I have, showed up [in Del Rio]. I take it 1,400 have been sent back to Haiti. What about the rest?”
“Wolf, if it’s 10 percent or 15 percent, I don’t have the precise numbers,” Mayorkas claimed. “I assure you it’s a minority of the individuals … and they are placed in immigration enforcement proceedings, where they are able, where they appear before a judge and if, in fact, they make a valid claim to remain in the United States, and of course, we honor that. And if not, they are removed as well.”
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