DEL RIO, Texas — The Biden administration has requested the Pentagon send the military to the southern border to help regain control after thousands of Haitian migrants swarmed over the Rio Grande into Texas.
The admission was the first time Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas has confirmed DHS is seeking the Pentagon’s help. It comes amid a crisis in south-central Texas, where at least 15,000 migrants illegally crossed by the Del Rio-Acuna International Bridge late last week.
“The approach has been an all-of-federal-government effort and, frankly, an all-of-federal-government effort in partnership with state and local authorities in the civil society. And the Department of Defense is evaluating a request for assistance, and we hope that will come to fruition very shortly,” Mayorkas said during a press conference Monday afternoon after touring the area.
A Pentagon spokesman said on Monday the DHS had requested help specifically with transporting migrants from the border to its holding facilities. A Defense Department spokesman did not immediately return a request for comment.
Virtually no federal law enforcement is on guard at the border’s riverbank, as all are busy processing and transporting the record-high number of illegal immigrants in custody in Del Rio. Absent the federal government’s presence, Texas Gov. Greg Abbott deployed state troopers statewide to patrol and deter people — though they cannot arrest someone for illegal entry, as it is a federal offense.
The group of migrants has been camped out beneath the international bridge on the U.S. side for days, hoping the Biden administration will release them into the United States. Because of immigration backlogs before the courts, more than 1 million people are waiting to have their cases decided.
Officials routinely release migrant families after being encountered because federal agencies cannot hold them for more than 20 days. Additionally, judges are typically unable to hear new cases for three to five years, and people cannot be detained for that length of time.
As of Friday, more than 12,000 people were living under the bridge, having come across from Mexico. The majority are from Haiti, but they fled years ago and have resided in Central or South America.
Mayorkas said the migrants had been misinformed about the state of the border and that it is not open to them despite the Haitian president’s assassination earlier this summer.
“We are very concerned that Haitians who are taking this irregular migration path are receiving false information that the border is open or that Temporary Protected Status is available. I want to make sure that it is known that this is not the way to come to the United States. That is false information,” Mayorkas said, referring to a government program that permits Haitians illegally residing in the U.S. before July 29 to avoid deportation following last year’s natural disaster.
While Mayorkas has verbally stated since March that the border is not open and migrants should not approach the U.S. “now,” illegal migration levels have only risen, hitting 21-year highs multiple times this spring and summer.
The Cabinet official said single adults are likely to be flown to Haiti, but families will be released into the country.