Migrants from Haiti cross the Rio Grande, on the border of Ciudad Acuna, Mexico, Friday. Photo by Miguel Sierra/EPA-EFE
Sept. 18 (UPI) -- The Department of Homeland Security said Saturday it has ramped up deportation flights to Haiti this weekend amid an increase in migrants at the border in Texas.
"DHS will secure additional transportation to accelerate the pace and increase the capacity of removal flights to Haiti and other destinations in the hemisphere within the next 72 hours," the DHS said in a statement.
The announcement came on the same day more than 50 Democratic lawmakers urged the Biden administration in a letter to halt deportations to Haiti. The leaders asked to focus instead on humanitarian relief in the aftermath of the assassination of the country's president, Jovenel Moise, in July and a 7.2-magnitude earthquake last month that killed over 2,000 Haitians. The impoverished Caribbean country is also still recovering from the 7-magnitude quake on Jan. 12, 2010, that killed at least 100,000 people.
The deportation flights are the third part of President Joe Biden's six-part strategy to address the surge at the border bridge between Texas and Mexico, which includes thousands of Haitian migrants.
The first step was for U.S. Customs and Border Protection to move 400 agents and officers to the Del Rio sector to improve control of the area with the Del Rio Port of Entry temporarily closed.
Second, U.S. Border Patrol was coordinating with Immigrations and Customs Enforcement and the U.S. Coast Guard to move migrants from Del Rio to other processing locations.
The fourth step was for the administration to work with source and transit countries in the region to accept individuals who previously resided in those countries.
Fifth was for the Department of Homeland Security to coordinate with other federal, state and local partners on urgent humanitarian actions to "improve conditions for migrants on U.S. soil," according to the department's statement.
The final step is for the White House to direct appropriate U.S. agencies to work with Haitian and other regional government to provide assistance and support to returnees.
The DHS cited the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's Title 42 authority for the deportation flights, adding that the "expulsion and removal flights," will include Mexico, Ecuador and Northern Triangle countries along with Haiti.
"Beyond the six steps outlined above, the Biden Administration has reiterated that our borders are not open, and people should not make the dangerous journey," the DHS statement said. "Individuals and families are subject to border restrictions, including expulsion. Irregular migration poses a significant threat to the health and welfare of border communities and the lives of migrants themselves, and should not be attempted."
The deportation flights will continue over the next week, when ICE plans to fly eight deportation flights to Haiti, and then increase that number to 10 per week, according to internal documents obtained by NBC News.
Eight deportation flights typically carry 100-120 deportees, The Washington Post reported.