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Thousands Of Haitians Are Waiting At The U.S.-Mexico Border To Enter The Country

SCOTT SIMON, HOST:

We begin today on the U.S.-Mexico border in Del Rio, Texas, where a growing group of migrants has gathered in increasingly dire conditions. Thousands and thousands of women, men and children, most of them from Haiti, are waiting to be processed by U.S. immigration authorities. They're part of a swell of migrants from Haiti in a record-breaking year of unauthorized border crossings in the southwest.

Arelis Hernandez is The Washington Post Texas correspondent and joins us now from Del Rio. Thanks for being with us.

ARELIS HERNANDEZ: Thank you for having me.

SIMON: The mayor said on Friday conditions in Del Rio are deteriorating rapidly. What are you seeing now? What does it look like? What's it feel like?

HERNANDEZ: So access to the improvised encampment is quite limited, but I actually got as close as one can get as a member of the public to where this is. And what you see are just thousands of people, shoulder to shoulder, huddled beneath this bridge - 'cause it's more than 100 degrees out here right now - trying to, you know, cool off. Meanwhile, there are folks who have built shelters out of the carrizo cane that lines the Rio Grande. There's human refuse near the shoreline of the river. And it just looks like a deepening and uncomfortable position for these people.

SIMON: Arelis, what do people say to you?

HERNANDEZ: I had a chance to talk to one young father, a 31-year-old from Haiti, who had been in Chile, actually, the last four years. And he told me that he was upset about the conditions, about the fact that, you know, his daughter is having to sleep on the ground on a piece of cardboard, being, you know, bitten by ants and all kinds of insects that are crawling on the ground. He's just upset with the way things have turned out and feeling as though the opportunity that he sought is still so far off.

SIMON: And I gather, although Americans are a little familiar with the devastating earthquake and, of course, the aftermath of the presidential assassination, political ferment in Haiti - but I gather many Haitians trying to enter have been waiting for years.

HERNANDEZ: That's correct. I mean, conditions in the island nation, whether it's political or the 2010 earthquake or the most recent earthquake, have not been great for some time. And out-migration from Haiti is - long been a fact. And so with - like this young man that I spoke to yesterday. They have been traveling throughout South America, going to countries that will give them identification papers, like Chile, like Brazil, working there and trying to build their finances so they could finally make that trip up north to the United States, where many of them have family.

There are also some recent arrivals. You know, I'm able to talk to people who have been in South America a long time because they speak Spanish. I don't speak Creole, unfortunately. And there are several people who only speak Creole, which, to me, is a sign that they literally just arrived in Mexico.

SIMON: Yeah. And how's the Biden administration responding? Can you tell from what you see on the ground?

HERNANDEZ: They're definitely surging personnel and resources. You know, we're right outside the gate where, you know, this encampment is. And all day, there's been traffic, trucks full of portable toilets, water. There was a caterer that went through. Vans full of National Guard troops are arriving. So there's definitely quite a bit of activity and a surge of personnel and resources. There are also buses. They are bussing people out of here to other Border Patrol stations.

SIMON: Arelis Hernandez of The Washington Post, thanks so much for being with us.

HERNANDEZ: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.