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How Haitian Migrants Are Getting To The U.S., And Where They May Go Next

Haitian migrants cross the Rio Grande river to get food and water in Mexico, as seen from Ciudad Acuña, Coahuila state, Mexico on Wednesday. The U.S. is allowing some migrants to enter the country and sending others back to Haiti.
Haitian migrants cross the Rio Grande river to get food and water in Mexico, as seen from Ciudad Acuña, Coahuila state, Mexico on Wednesday. The U.S. is allowing some migrants to enter the country and sending others back to Haiti.

Updated September 23, 2021 at 12:10 PM ET

We've been following the story of thousands of migrants, mostly from Haiti, camping out under a bridge in a Texas border town. That crowd is looking a little smaller Thursday.

U.S. border agents are allowing some into the country, with instructions to appear before an immigration office within 60 days. Others are being sent back to Haiti, or they're heading back over the border to Mexico — where NPR's Carrie Kahn brings us these updates. Listen to the full conversation here.

The numbers: Kahn said there appear to be between 5,000 and 6,000 migrants in the makeshift camp, but media are not allowed in to confirm. Hundreds of migrants have been released into the U.S. and are being bused to other Texas cities, with many heading to stay with relatives. The Val Verde Border Humanitarian Coalition said it's helped more than 1,000 people board buses north in the last three days.

Who gets to stay? The U.S. Department of Homeland Security isn't explaining how it is making that determination, but Kahn said it seems like families with children are the ones being allowed into the United States.

What is Mexico doing? Mexican immigration officials have started removing people from their side of the border in Ciudad Acuña, conducting pre-dawn raids of hotels and parks. Authorities are sending migrants out of town to southern Mexico and as far away as Guatemala.

Why now? As NPR's Steve Inskeep points out, Haiti is in a tough spot dealing with the aftermath of a presidential assassination and natural disaster — but many of the migrants now at the border were not in Haiti for those events, making it all the more surprising that so many people abruptly showed up in the same area.

Kahn calls it "really quite a stunning logistical feat that all these migrants, mostly Haitians, suddenly traveled 1,500 miles from southern Mexico ... in dozens of buses and arrived here within days of each other." She notes that many are using social media to learn how to make their way there.

What are Haitians saying? Kahn spoke to 29-year-old Jean Baptiste as he boarded a bus headed for Houston (where his uncle lives) with his wife and 3-year-old daughter. He left Haiti in 2017, and while his goal was to come to the U.S., he spent the last four years in Chile "barely eking out a living." He said that he heard about Del Rio, Texas, and decided to come — and that he's telling his friends now it's worth a try.


This story originally appeared on the Morning Edition live blog.

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.