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Thousands of Haitian Migrants Arrive at Border Crossing 

Ciudad Acuña is no stranger to migrants. However, this month’s surge is unlike anything the city has seen.

 

The New York Times reported Sunday that close to 14,000 migrants have converged on Del Rio, Texas to seek asylum. Most of them waded across a dam in Acuña where the water is knee-deep.

 

Yackeline Manzano Ortiz, 34, lives a block away from the dam, on the Mexican side.

 

"(On Monday), we started seeing a lot of Haitian people walking down the street, and thought it was just the normal migration that we’ve been having for two years now. We thought it was another caravan coming in.”

 

Manzano and her husband, Alberto Guevara Rodriguez, stood watch all week as streams of mostly Haitian migrants walked back and forth down their street. At one point, as the couple grilled chicken, some Haitians asked to buy it. The couple Googled what Haitians liked to eat and learned they like spaghetti with red pepper sauce. Soon, the couple was selling “family meals” of rice, beans and spaghetti with red pepper sauce for 250 pesos, or $12.39 US dollars. The family meal was enough to feed 6-8 people. They helped some charge their phones, and even hosted four Haitian migrants in a back room of their home on Saturday night. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Migrants cross the dam on the Rio Grande                                 Migrants order food in Acuña

 

Rodriguez said that many Haitians told him that the National Guard and soldiers had taken money from them during their journey through Mexico. He said that a group of Haitians ran to hide behind her house when a National Guard truck passed by on Monday.

 

 

Migrants had been freely crossing between Acuna and the U.S.  and vice versa.  Many said they were coming back to Acuna to buy food since there was not enough in the makeshift camp under the international bridge. 

 

Haiti is the West’s poorest nation with a per capita income of $100 per year. The reasons are clear why Haitians are migrating. However, it is still unclear how so many Haitians ended up in Del Rio so suddenly. Many I interviewed said the recent migration began when authorities at roadblocks in Tapachula, Chiapas stopped checking the documents of undocumented migrants. One Haitian who asked to stay anonymous, said he and others converged on Acuña because it “is the safest border crossing.” He also said he hoped the U.S. would grant him relief from deportation since he was travelling with his family. “In Haiti, there is no work. We are very poor. We as migrants left to search for a better life for our families.”

 

Edelin Pierre, a Haitian asylum seeker, had just arrived at the bus station after travelling three days from Tapachula. He said he would like to work in construction in the United States.

 

“I left Haiti because there is a group of people who killed my dad. They still haven’t found the body so we can’t bury him. My life there is complicated, and I am afraid. I am looking for a life in another country,” Pierre said. He also said officials in Tapachula were irresponsible and inefficient in processing migrants' documents.

 

Manzano said discrimination against Haitians in Acuña is prevalent. She said “there are people at the stores saying “don’t let them come in. They are dirty and have disease.”

 

She said that when she went to buy fried chicken, there was a line of Haitians about two blocks long. When she went to the door to ask how long the wait would be, the owner said she could come in. “Why would they discriminate against them if they have the same amount of money as I do? she said.

 

Martin Oviedo, 73, worked various jobs in the United States for 30 years. He sat in the city center watching Haitians go by. He said he did not envy them. “They should live their life while they are still young.” He said if he were still young, he would migrate too.

 

Early Saturday afternoon, authorities in Texas began preventing migrants from crossing back to Mexico. Authorities in Acuña that had been supervising the crossing also blocked access to the Rio Grande. Buses in nearby Piedras Negras were escorted out of the city and messages were published online that it was a federal crime to transport an undocumented migrant. Rumors spread that Mexican officials were gearing up to conduct raids and deport undocumented migrants. 

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