The United States government repatriated 435 Haitian migrants from Texas via three flights that landed in Port-au-Prince on Sunday, according to Haiti’s National Office of Migrants (OMN). The landings were the first of daily flights that the U.S. says it will send to Haiti as it attempts to clear more than 12,000 Haitian migrants who have been living under a bridge in Del Rio, Texas.

“We have no choice at this point, but to increase repatriation flights,” Department of Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas said during a media briefing Sunday afternoon.

Mayorkas did not provide details about the flight logistics and schedules. However, officials with the Haiti-based migrants office that is meeting the repatriated haitians at the airport have told local media that three flights carrying 435 migrants are also scheduled for Monday. Beginning Tuesday, OMN expects three flights to Port-au-Prince and another three to Cap-Haitien daily.  

Comic by Gus Reyes

The Haitian migrants camped out at the Del Rio bridge came from Brazil, Chile and other Latin American countries where they had been living. They trekked across the two continents to enter the U.S. through a variety of border towns, drawn by misinformation about the U.S. providing Temporary Protected Status (TPS) to anyone who makes it to America. 

The movement began months ago, with migrants directed to various border towns to be processed. But a couple weeks ago, the influx accumulated in Del Rio, and their numbers ballooned in the past week with the arrival of 2,000 people on Sept. 16 alone. 

In a warning to those who may still be contemplating the trek to America, Mayorkas said the migrants are undertaking “an irregular path” to immigration that is perilous and will ultimately prove fruitless.

“Trying to come to the U.S. in this way is not worth the tragedy, the money, the effort,” the Secretary said. “Do not attempt this journey. It will not succeed.” 

The message echoes the Biden administration has been sending to migrants for months through a variety of officials, including Vice President Kamala Harris, and numerous channels as conditions have worsened in countries throughout the region.

Citing security reasons, Mayorkas did not provide details about the number of flights nor people it would target returning to Haiti every day. He also did not provide information, including any funding arrangements, about the Haitian government’s role in resettling the compatriots.

Since some migrants may have obtained immigration status in other countries, officials with border patrol and immigration agencies, which Homeland Security oversees, will also look at the documentation of those Haitians to determine where they should be repatriated.

Repatriated say they’ll leave again

Haitian migrants walk together after US authorities flew them out of a Texas border city on Sunday where thousands of mostly Haitians had gathered under a bridge after crossing the Rio Grande river from Mexico, in Port-au-Prince, Haiti September 19, 2021. © REUTERS/Ralph Tedy Erol

Even as they landed in Port-au-Prince Sunday, several migrants spoke with local media, their faces covered with Covid-19 masks. They did not provide their names on camera, but their departure from the busses at the airport made it obvious they were coming from the U.S.

Some told local media they plan to return to the Latin American countries where they had been living because conditions in Haiti are too difficult to remain there. President Jovenel Moise was shot dead 12 times in his home on Jul. 7. Later on Aug. 14, a 7.2 magnitude earthquake struck Haiti’s southwest region. At least 2,200 people died and scores of families were left homeless. 

Meanwhile, Port-au-Prince is experiencing a spike in kidnapping cases and gang members regularly engage in skirmishes with each other and the police. 

“With the way things are going in the country, I can’t raise my two-year-old baby in Haiti,” a woman said. “I have to leave.”