A migrant passes through a fence with water and supplies near the Rio Grande in Ciudad Acuña on Sept. 16. (Sergio Flores for The Washington Post)

By Arelis R. Hernández and Nick Miroff for The Washington Post

DEL RIO, Tex. — Thousands of Haitian migrants who have crossed the Rio Grande in recent days are sleeping outdoors under a border bridge in South Texas, creating a humanitarian emergency and a logistical challenge U.S. agents describe as unprecedented.

Authorities in Del Rio say more than 10,000 migrants have arrived at the impromptu camp, and they are expecting more in the coming days. The sudden influx has presented the Biden administration with a new border emergency at a time when illegal crossings have reached a 20-year high and Department of Homeland Security officials are straining to accommodate and resettle more than 60,000 Afghan evacuees.

The migrants arriving to Del Rio appear to be part of a larger wave of Haitians heading northward, many of whom arrived in Brazil and other South American nations after the 2010 earthquake. They are on the move again, embarking on a grueling, dangerous journey to the United States with smuggling organizations managing the trip, according to border authorities and refugee groups.

More than 29,000 Haitians have arrived over the past 11 months, the latest Customs and Border Protection figures show, including some in mixed-nationality families with children born in Brazil, Chile or other South American nations.

They have trekked through the jungles of Panama’s Darien Gap, navigated migrant camps and criminal gangs in Central America, and dodged border guards and troops along the highways of southern Mexico. Some say the economic toll of the pandemic pushed them to leave, while others see a more welcoming U.S. administration offering them a fleeting opportunity to reach the United States.

“I see brave people who instead of being trapped by conformity chose to find a better life,” said Wendy Guillaumetre, 31, who spent four years in Chile before setting out with his wife and 3-year-old daughter for the United States.

“Conditions are too hard in Haiti,” he said.

Guillaumetre had returned to the Mexican side of the Rio Grande to charge his phone and find food for his family. “I have many dreams and don’t give up easily,” he said, holding a ticket that, by his estimation, puts his family 2,000th in line to be processed by Border Patrol.

The Biden administration has curtailed deportation flights to Haiti after the assassination of President Jovenel Moïse in July and a 7.2-magnitude earthquake Aug. 14 that killed more than 2,000. And DHS has extended temporary protected status, or TPS, eligibility for Haitians, a measure that allows Haitians living in the United States without legal status to qualify for provisional residency and avoid deportation. Continue reading

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