Mexico Halts Some Bus Lines From Operation to Prevent Carrying Migrants to Border Towns

Mexico has halted some bus lines from operation in the state of Coahuila in an effort to prevent migrants from using the buses to reach border towns, an official said.

Luis Ángel Urraza, president of the local chamber of commerce, said the bus lines had been stopped by Mexican authorities and the U.S. government had closed the bridge connecting Ciudad Acuña and Del Rio, Texas, to stem the flow of migrants.

He said the closure is wearing on merchants in the area, who are waiting for the migrant population to drop enough for the bridge to be reopened again.

In further efforts to halt migration, a federal Mexican official told the Associated Press on Sunday that the government plans to take migrants to the northern Mexican city of Monterrey and the southern city of Tapachula, and begin flights to Haiti from those cities in coming days.

For more reporting from the Associated Press, see below:

Haiti Migrants Detained
The U.S. and Mexico have been ramping up efforts to stem migration across the border by increasing deportations of Haitian migrants. A Haitian man is detained by Mexican immigration officials in Ciudad Acuna, Coahuila state, Mexico on September 20. Paul Ratje/AFP via Getty Images

The options remaining for thousands of Haitian migrants straddling the Mexico-Texas border are narrowing as the United States government was ramping up expulsion flights to Haiti on Tuesday and Mexico began busing some away from the border.

More than 6,000 Haitians and other migrants had been removed from an encampment at Del Rio, U.S. officials said Monday as they defended a strong response that included immediately expelling migrants to their impoverished Caribbean country and faced criticism for using horse patrols to stop them from entering the town.

That was enough for some Haitian migrants to return to Mexico, while others struggled to decide on which side of the border to take their chances.

Jean Claudio Charles, 34, his wife and their 1-year-old son were stretching at dawn on Tuesday after sleeping on cardboard in a park by the river with 300 others who chose to return to Mexico from the U.S. side, some for fear of being deported and others because of a lack of food.

Charles said he did not want to leave the area, which is gradually becoming a new camp on the Mexican side, for fear of arrests.

"They are grabbing people, they bother us, especially Haitians because they identify us by skin," he said.

On Monday, U.S. Department of Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas conceded it was a "challenging and heartbreaking situation," but he issued a stark warning: "If you come to the United States illegally, you will be returned. Your journey will not succeed, and you will be endangering your life and your family's life."

Mexico's Foreign Relations Secretary, Marcelo Ebrard, said Tuesday he had spoken with his U.S. counterpart, Antony Blinken, about the Haitians' situation. Ebrard said most of the Haitians already had refugee status in Chile or Brazil and most weren't seeking it in Mexico.

"What they are asking for is to be allowed to pass freely through Mexico to the United States," Ebrard said.

On Monday, officials from Mexico's National Human Rights Commission walked among the migrants signing up those interested in applying for asylum in Mexico. So far this year, more than 19,000 Haitians have opted to do so, including some now at the border.

At the same time, Mexican authorities were detaining some migrants. The first busloads pulled out Sunday and more empty buses arrived Monday.

Some humanitarian workers said Monday they had seen Mexican National Guard troops help immigration agents detain a group of 15 to 20 migrants in Acuña.

Mayorkas and U.S. Border Patrol Chief Raul Ortiz said they would look into agents on horseback using what appeared to be whips and their horses to push back migrants at the river between Acuña and Del Rio, a city of about 35,000 people roughly 145 miles (230 kilometers) west of San Antonio where thousands of migrants remain camped around a bridge.

Later Monday, the Department of Homeland Security issued a statement calling the footage "extremely troubling" and promising a full investigation that would "define the appropriate disciplinary actions to be taken."

Mayorkas said 600 Homeland Security employees, including from the Coast Guard, have been brought to Del Rio. He said he has asked the Defense Department for help in what may be one of the swiftest, large-scale expulsions of migrants and refugees from the United States in decades.

He also said the U.S. would increase the pace and capacity of flights to Haiti and other countries in the hemisphere. The number of migrants at the bridge peaked at 14,872 on Saturday, said Brandon Judd, president of the National Border Patrol Council, a labor union that represents agents.

Some of the migrants at the Del Rio camp said the recent devastating earthquake in Haiti and the assassination of President Jovenel Moïse make them afraid to return to a country that seems more unstable than when they left.

"It's not right," said Haitian migrant Jean Philipe Samus. "The Americans are grabbing Haitians and deporting everyone to Haiti. Haiti has no president, no jobs, there is nothing. In the earthquake a lot of people died. It's not right over there, I'm going back to Mexico."

But Mayorkas defended his recent decision to grant Haitians temporary legal status due to political and civil strife in their homeland if they were in the United States on July 29, but not to those being sent back now.

"We made an assessment based on the country conditions...that Haiti could in fact receive individuals safely," he said.

Mexico Haiti Migrants
The U.S. is flying Haitians camped in a Texas border town back to their homeland and blocking others from crossing the border from Mexico. Migrants, many from Haiti, wade across the Rio Grande from Del Rio, Texas, to return to Ciudad Acuna, Mexico, Tuesday, September 21, to avoid deportation from the U.S. Fernando Llano/AP Photo