Migrants are gone from the Del Rio border, but how many are staying in the US?

Pooja Lodhia Image
Tuesday, September 28, 2021
Here's how officials determine which migrants will stay in the US
A Houston attorney says there's 'some amount of subjectivity' officials must use when deciding which migrants can remain in America.

DEL RIO, Texas (KTRK) -- The International Bridge in Del Rio is open again to all traffic.

All the migrant people who had gathered there are now gone just a week after more than 14,000 people were camped out under a bridge, according to officials.

The Secretary for Homeland Security estimates 30,000 migrant people have crossed the Del Rio border since Sept. 9.

About 12,400 of them have been allowed to request asylum or another kind of humanitarian protection. That means they will remain in the United States while their claims are pending.

Reporter's Notebook: Del Rio - Crisis on the Border

The border crossing is open, and thousands of Haitian migrants have left, but the crisis in Del Rio is just beginning. ABC13 reporter Pooja Lodhia and photojournalist Wes Sewell spent nearly a week in the border town, covering the humanitarian crisis and talking with the thousands of families hoping for a better life in America. Pooja and Wes are sharing their experience with anchor Art Rascon, and what they think comes next in this ongoing story.

They are required to check in with immigration officers within 60 days of arriving.

About 8,000 of them have voluntarily returned to Mexico, about 5,000 people are still being processed, and another 3,000 have been put on planes back to Haiti.

So, who decides who goes and who stays?

Well, that's complicated.

"Scholars have written about what's called 'refugee roulette' or 'asylum roulette.' There is some amount of subjectivity that's involved," said Attorney Geoffrey Hoffman with the University of Houston Law Center Immigration Clinic. "It's very much a case-by-case basis."

SEE ALSO: Texas border crossing where migrants made camp reopens

The Biden administration has promised to not deport unaccompanied minors. ABC13 cameras captured children with families boarding flights.

People are being deported under a policy first used during the Trump administration that allows rapid deportations due to public health concerns.

Those who are deported through Title 42 don't have an opportunity to apply for asylum.

"The fact that this group in Del Rio made it to the United States means that they should have the right to apply for asylum. That's a Supreme Court precedent," Hoffman explained. "If they're turned around because of [Title] 42, we don't know what's going to happen to them when they return. We don't know if they're going to be persecuted or tortured or what's going to happen to them."

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