haitian migrants, Del Rio texas
Several Haitian migrants allowed to stay in the U.S. wait at a gas station in Del Rio, Texas for a volunteer to help them find transportation on Sep. 20, 2021. Such migrants often head to the homes of relatives or friends already living in the U.S., while they wait for asylum hearings. Photo by Leonardo March

Among the nearly 14,000 mostly Haitian migrants camped on the banks of the Rio Grande River, a few considered lucky were being processed by immigration officials and planned to head further north from the border town.

Walson Etienne waited at a Del Rio, Texas, gas station with a plane ticket in his hand. Pulling out his smartphone, he showcased his travel itinerary — a flight to Dallas-Fort Worth, then to Laguardia International Airport in New York City, where he said he planned to stay with family. 

A Port-au-Prince native, Etienne worked as a construction worker in Chile before starting his journey north to the Mexico-United States border two months ago. He had lost his job last year when the COVID-19 pandemic hit, and he could not fathom returning to Haiti. 

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Sam is a reporter for The Haitian Times and a 2020 Report for America corps member. He has covered Haiti and its diaspora since 2018. His work has also appeared in USA Today, the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review and Haiti Liberte. Sam can be reached at sam@haitiantimes.com or on Twitter @sambojarski.