WASHINGTON (CBS/AP) — Twenty-six Republican governors, including Gov. Charlie Baker of Massachusetts and Gov. Chris Sununu of New Hampshire, want to meet with President Joe Biden in the next two weeks to talk border security. The push for a meeting comes as more than 12,000 migrants are camped around a bridge in Del Rio, Texas, after crossing from Ciudad Acuña, Mexico.
The U.S. is flying Haitians camped in a Texas border town back to their homeland and blocking others from crossing the border from Mexico in a massive show of force that signals the beginning of what could be one of America’s swiftest, large-scale expulsions of migrants or refugees in decades.
“As chief executives of our states, we request a meeting with you at the White House to bring an end to the national security crisis created by eight months of unenforced borders,” the GOP governors wrote in a letter to Biden Monday. “A crisis that began at our southern border now extends beyond to every state and requires immediate action before the situation worsens.
The governors are asking Biden for a meeting “as soon as your schedule allows within 15 days.”
NEW: Twenty-six GOP governors sent a letter to President Biden, demanding a meeting as thousands of migrants—including many Haitians—seek asylum near Del Rio, Texas.
"A crisis that began at our southern border now extends beyond to every state and requires immediate action…" pic.twitter.com/Gp8YmBonYi
— Nicole Sganga (@NicoleSganga) September 20, 2021
“We come directly to you seeking an open and constructive dialogue regarding border enforcement on behalf of U.S. citizens in our states and all those hoping to become U.S. citizens,” the letter states. “We must end the current crisis and return to border operations that respect the laws of our land and the lives of all people, including those in our states looking to the federal government to enforce and protect our nation’s borders.”
Haitians have been migrating to the U.S. in large numbers from South America for several years, many having left their Caribbean nation after a devastating 2010 earthquake. After jobs dried up from the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, many made the dangerous trek by foot, bus and car to the U.S. border, including through the infamous Darien Gap, a Panamanian jungle.
Some of the migrants at the Del Rio camp said the recent devastating earthquake in Haiti and the assassination of President Jovenel Moïse make them afraid to return to a country that seems more unstable than when they left.
“This is certainly distinct from the other large movements of migrants we’ve witnessed,” Department of Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas said Monday.
Since Friday, 3,300 migrants have already been removed from the Del Rio camp to planes or detention centers, Border Patrol Chief Raul L. Ortiz said Sunday. He expected to have 3,000 of the approximately 12,600 remaining migrants moved within a day, and aimed for the rest to be gone within the week.
“We are working around the clock to expeditiously move migrants out of the heat, elements and from underneath this bridge to our processing facilities in order to quickly process and remove individuals from the United States consistent with our laws and our policies,” Ortiz said at news conference at the Del Rio bridge. The Texas city of about 35,000 people sits roughly 145 miles west of San Antonio.
The rapid expulsions were made possible by a pandemic-related authority adopted by former President Donald Trump in March 2020 that allows for migrants to be immediately removed from the country without an opportunity to seek asylum. President Biden exempted unaccompanied children from the order but let the rest stand.
Any Haitians not expelled are subject to immigration laws, which include rights to seek asylum and other forms of humanitarian protection. Families are quickly released in the U.S. because the government cannot generally hold children.
(© Copyright 2021 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)