Thousands of Desperate Migrants Trapped in Squalor at Border: Biden Initiates Massive Deportations

Editors’ Note—The situation with tens of thousands of Haitian immigrants trapped at the U.S. border erupted suddenly this week and has been escalating by the hour throughout the week. will continue to monitor and report on this situation as it develops.

As of Friday, September 17, about 12,000 migrants remain forced into a makeshift encampment along the U.S.—Mexico border. They are packed under a bridge that crosses the Rio Grande and connects Del Rio, Texas, and Ciudad Acuña, in the Mexican state of Coahuila. The migrants are mainly Haitians seeking asylum in the U.S., but include people from several countries in South America. Many of the Haitians are reported to have been living in different South American countries for several years before they set off on their perilous journey. They are not allowed to leave the squalid border encampment until they have been “processed” by U.S. immigration authorities.

Entire families, including pregnant women, infants and young children, are suffering in temperatures that reach 100 degrees. USA Today reported that “Some migrants built cave-like shelters within the reeds along the river ... Trash piles were 10 feet wide and at least two women have given birth, including one who tested positive for COVID-19 after being taken to a hospital...”. 

Thousands of immigrants, many from Haiti, wait under bridge in Del Rio, Texas.


Thousands of immigrants, many from Haiti, wait under bridge in Del Rio, Texas, September 17, 2021. Photo: Handout from Congressman August Pfluger   

They have no running water, and only a few portable toilets to serve the entire encampment. They are compelled to wade back and forth across the Rio Grande into Mexico to try to buy food for themselves and their families, since federal and state authorities have turned the surrounding area into a virtual police state. A 41-year-old Black man from Cuba said that he crossed the treacherous wilderness of Panama’s Darien jungle to get to the U.S., and now needed to cross back into Mexico to receive money wired by his family in the U.S. He said, “Without money, you are nothing here”.

A 23-year-old Haitian man told a reporter from the Houston Chronicle that, along with his partner and their six-month and four-year old children, he had traveled thousands of miles by bus, taxi, and foot across South and Central America, trying to reach a cousin in New Jersey. “We went through the jungle. We walked about four days on foot from Colombia to Panama.” He said they had passed bodies of people who had died along their trek.

Bruno Lozano, Del Rio’s mayor, told reporters that “You can feel the desperation ... of these individuals. They're getting aggressive, rightfully so, they've been in the heat day after day and it's something that — it's very challenging to describe — but it is extremely chaotic. ... They're angry. There's people having babies down there. There's people collapsing out of the heat. There's babies in diapers. They haven't bathed".

U.S. Customs and Border Patrol (CBP) has barely provided the most minimal food, water, shelter and means for basic hygiene. Starving, tormented people, including children, are being forced to live penned up, in squalor and filth. CBP even claimed that it is keeping people under the bridge to “prevent injuries from heat-related illness”! It has provided only “20 portable toilets”, and some water and towels—for 12,000+ people. Over the past week the number of migrants grew daily. Tiffany Burrow, the Val Verde Humanitarian Border Coalition’s operations director, told the New York Times, The city under the bridge could become bigger than Del Rio,”—a city of over 35,000 people.

Immigrants, many from Haiti, cross a dam to get into the U.S. at Del Rio Texas.


Haitian migrants using a dam to cross into Del Rio, Texas, where more than 12,000 migrants are trapped under a bridge waiting to apply for asylum.    Photo: AP

Maximizing Deportation, Pressuring Mexico, Turning the Screws of Repression

The U.S. response to this crisis has been sadistic, cold-hearted inhumanity. Joe Biden entered the presidency in January claiming he would immediately end Trump’s “cruel” immigration policies. That was then. Now the U.S. under Biden is moving quickly and violently to expel many of these migrants who have reached the U.S., and to pressure Mexico into aggressively preventing more from arriving.

On September 17 ABC News reported that “The Biden administration plans the widescale expulsion of Haitian migrants from a small Texas border city (Del Rio) by putting them on flights to Haiti starting (September 19)”. The Washington Post reported that “Biden officials want to maximize deportations to break the momentum of the massive influx into the encampment in Del Rio, Tex., ...”

It is not now clear how many of the desperate people arriving in Del Rio will be allowed into the U.S. to continue their appeals, and how many will be sent back to Haiti, nor what the criteria for determining that will be. If people with Haitian citizenship are not allowed into the U.S., they will also be very unlikely to be allowed into Mexico or other countries where they may have been living, and will be returned to Haiti. 

On Friday, September 17, the Los Angeles Times reported that “tens of thousands” of Haitians trying to reach the U.S. have been trapped in the southern Mexican city of Tapachula by Mexican armed forces, as a “result of U.S. pressure on Mexico to keep migrants from reaching the United States”. Jessica Bolter of the Migrant Policy Institute told a reporter that “Even though the Biden administration may be doing it more quietly, they are certainly putting as much pressure on Mexico as was put on Mexico in the last administration. They are still relying on Mexico to prevent people from getting to the U.S.-Mexico border.”

Meanwhile, Texas governor Greg Abbott, a Republi-fascist, ordered the Department of Public Safety (DPS) and the Texas National Guard to “... shut down six points of entry [in Del Rio] along the southern border to stop these caravans from overrunning our state". Abbott backed down from that order, but said the DPS and National Guard would “assist” federal forces in “closing the Del Rio Port of Entry”. The state of Texas has also authorized its police agencies to enforce criminal law against migrants along the border, including arresting people for “criminal trespassing” for their presence within the U.S. In the first month of its application, beginning in late July, almost 6,000 people were arrested for criminal trespassing, and a state prison dedicated exclusively to that was maxed out—so Abbott ordered another. And on September 17, Abbott signed a bill that will nearly triple the amount the state spends on “border defense” (meaning—more prisons, walls, police, and National Guard at the border).



Wake the Hell Up!

Crimes against humanity, on a massive scale, are happening right now, right here. Anyone who thought abominations like these would stop with Trump out of office needs to wake the hell up. The horrific oppression facing all immigrants and all those arrested at the border is deeply embedded into the system of global plunder and exploitation called capitalism-imperialism, a system that routinely feasts upon and destroys the lives of millions, and enforces with murderous brutality, regardless of who the political leadership of the system is.

These crimes are being orchestrated and carried out by an administration that promised to carry out a “fair and humane” policy toward immigrants. Even more bloodthirsty fascists in the Republican Party demand much more violence and repression to carry out and enforce the interests of “making America great”.

Both of them have no real answers other than carrying out massive and escalating repression.

Both of them represent the interests of the capitalist-imperialist system that feasts upon and destroys the lives of billions of people, worldwide.

People waiting to cross border silhouetted against sky at gap in border wall Texas


Republican/Christian fascist Texas governor, Greg Abbott, allocated $250 million for a “Texas border wall” and launched a “crowd source” fund drive to pay the remaining cost. Above, migrants at gap in Texas-Mexico border wall.    Photo: AP

These atrocities must be strenuously condemned and opposed. More fundamentally, as the recent document by Bob Avakian, THIS IS A RARE TIME WHEN REVOLUTION BECOMES POSSIBLE—WHY THAT IS SO, AND HOW TO SEIZE ON THIS RARE OPPORTUNITY, puts it:

The relations of exploitation and oppression that are built into this system are enforced through its institutions of official power and violence—the Congress and the presidency, the courts, and especially the police and the military.

Only a revolution—a real revolution, to ultimately defeat and dismantle these institutions of official violence and power, and bring into being a radically different economic and political system, with the goal of eliminating exploitation and oppression—only this revolution can deal with all this in a way that is truly in the interests of the masses of people and all of humanity.

For Background on Haiti

There are deep roots to the suffering of the people in Haiti and the intolerable situation they find themselves in today. These roots are not a mystery, nor are they the fault of the Haitian people—in fact, their source is the system of capitalism-imperialism and, especially, U.S. imperialism. To get a sense of the character, history and source of this horrific and needless suffering, read these articles elsewhere on this site:

Sean Penn, COVID-19 and Mass Murders” by Bob Avakian

• “The U.S. in Haiti: A Century of Domination and Misery

American Crime Case #80: 1915-1934: The U.S. Invasion, Occupation and Domination of Haiti

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