CIUDAD ACUÑA, Mexico, Sept. 19 (Reuters) – A U.S. law enforcement officer on horseback waved what appeared to be a lariat, whipping it near the face of a man wading through the Rio Grande and carrying a bag plastic food.
It was just a desperate moment in a few hours of such scenes along the Rio Grande on Sunday.
Hundreds of Haitian migrants who camped under a bridge in the Texan town of Del Rio attempted to bring food and other supplies from Ciudad Acuña in the Mexican state of Coahuila, as US authorities tightened security in the border and started to fly migrants. outside the region, some to Haiti.
The migrants said their squalid encampment under a bridge on the US side of the river ran out of supplies. Over the past few days, US authorities had let migrants commute to a shallow spot in the river. On Sunday, however, they told migrants they could not return to the US side if they ventured into Mexico.
“We are trapped,” said Joncito Jean, 37, who had spent three days sleeping on a sheet on the floor with his wife and children, aged 3 and 4. He said he regretted his decision to come.
“There are no human conditions … We have to go out to buy water.”
More than 12,000 migrants, identified by authorities on both sides as mostly Haitians, have gathered under the bridge in recent days, awaiting immigration processing. Instead, US authorities began removing several thousand people from the camp over the weekend, including some who were later seen arriving in Haiti.
Still, several people who spoke to Reuters, most of whom traveled with their children, said they would try their luck to try to stay in the United States.
Mackenley Pearre, 25, left impoverished Haiti in July with his cousin, wife and 2-year-old daughter due to increased violence and the inability to find work as an electrician. In July the Haitian president was assassinated and in August a major earthquake and powerful storm hit the country.
“Something has to be done not to starve,” he said, eating a tamale given to him by a resident on the Mexican side, one of the many who said they felt moved to help.
At a press conference in Del Rio on Sunday, U.S. Border Patrol chief Raul Ortiz said resources were available.
“We provide food, water, portable toilets, towels, emergency medical technicians are available for first aid,” Ortiz said.
“Over the next 6-7 days, our goal is to process the 12,662 migrants we have under this bridge as quickly as possible,” Ortiz said. “What we want to make sure is that we deter migrants from entering the area so that we can deal with the people who are under the bridge at this point.”
At the border, migrants waded deeper in an attempt to escape law enforcement. Most of the men, many of them barefoot and in boxers, attempted more delicate runs through waist-deep water. Some migrants crossed to another place where the water reached their necks.
Reuters reporters saw officers on horseback wearing cowboy hats and vests emblazoned with “POLICE US BORDER PATROL” blocking the path of migrants going up the American embankment with plastic bags and cardboard boxes.
After one of the officers wearing the vests unwound a lariat-like rope like a whip and steered his horse to block the migrants, one of them fell back into the water. He got up and tried again, but the officer pulled the rope close to his face again.
In another incident, the same officer grabbed the back of the shirt of a migrant who was trying to walk up the bank with bags of food.
The two finally appeared to walk past the police as officers attempted to hold back the migrants who scattered in all directions. A group of about two dozen people were then seen sitting on the US side of the riverside behind yellow tape near several patrol cars.
Reporting by Daina Beth Solomon, Alberto Fajardo and Daniel Becerril in Ciudad Acuña; Alexandra Ulmer in Del Rio. Editing by Donna Bryson and Diane Craft
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