Treatment of Haitians gathered at the US-Mexico border has drawn nationwide fury even as Republicans frame it as a national security threat
Republikein Texas Goewerneur Greg Abbott has taken a drastic new step to block the arrival of more Haitian migrants in Del Rio: assembling scores of parked cars to create a physical barrier at the border crossing.
The move comes as the fate of thousands of Haitians gathered at the border becomes a major national issue – and after images of migrant people being whipped by border agents on horseback drew furious condemnation, including from Vice President Kamala Harris.
Pictures from the area show massed government vehicles parked side-by-side, effectively creating a border wall across miles of territory where people have crossed from Mexico.
In a statement celebrating the strategy, Mr Abbott said that “one day there were countless people coming across the border, then the DPS put up all these vehicles, and suddenly, in an instant, people stopped crossing the border in this location. That strategy is working.”
Thousands of Haitians have arrived at the US border in recent weeks, driven from their home country by poverty, a major political crisis and devastating natural disasters. Many have effectively been stranded at the border as enforcement agencies restrict their movements and try to drive them back.
And while the White House has called for better treatment, the administration is not changing its policy of deporting people back to Haiti, where overstretched authorities say they expect some 14,000 people to arrive back from the US without homes to go to.
Conditions at the Del Rio camp on the US-Mexico border, intussen, remain grim, and word is reportedly spreading among those encamped there that deportation flights are underway, leading many to move back to the Mexican side of the Rio Grande for fear of being taken back to Haiti without any say in the matter.
Mr Abbott, who is thought to be mulling a presidential campaign in 2024 if Donald Trump does not or cannot run himself, has made deterring and obstructing immigrants a signature issue of his governorship. This summer he announced that he would seek private donations to fund the construction of unbuilt sections of Mr Trump’s border wall, funding for which was withdrawn by Joe Biden shortly after the president took office.