Migrants seeking asylum in the U.S. walk in the Rio Grande river near the International Bridge between Mexico and the U.S. as they wait to be processed in Ciudad Acuna, Mexico on September 17, 2021. Migrants pass back and forth to Mexico to buy food and supplies. CIUDAD ACU A, Mexico, Sept 17 - Reuters : Haitians were left behind under a Mexican bridge and followed instructions provided in WhatsApp to get there, according to a dozen migrants who said the tips delivered to their phones helped them evade checks by Texas authorities.
As of Friday, more than 10,000 migrants, most of them Haitians, were sleeping in a squalid camp under the Del Rio International Bridge connecting Ciudad Acu a, Mexico to Del Rio, Texas, hoping to apply for U.S. asylum.
In interviews the Haitians spoke of starting their journeys where they had been living in South America for some time under difficult conditions. They all showed Reuters several guides they had been following on their phones - some simply lists of Mexican towns and others detailed instructions on what buses to take - that all culminated in the Rio Grande in Del Rio, Texas.
James Pierre, 28, shared a WhatsApp list of 15 stops through Haiti – ranging from Henri Tocqueville to Huixtla, Chiapas and ending in Ciudad Acu a - circulating amongst Mexicoan migrants.
Those ahead of them called for directions. Pierre said that I helped people coming behind me. He said in a phone call that he was lost in the mountains for days and survived with little, but water and fruit.
One image shared by a migrant who arrived in Mexico today included detailed instructions on bus routes through Mexico, including where to get off and where to buy tickets. Several other Haitians also reported receiving the same instructions.
The instructions said: These are the routes for which you will not be asked to purchase any documentation when buying tickets. Groups of Haitians and other migrants who were frustrated with a long wait for travel documents tried to leave southern Mexico in caravans weeks ago.
These groups were deployed by security forces that broke up in some cases excessive violence. One video widely circulated on social media showed Mexican immigration agents stamping repeatedly and knocking a migrant to the ground. The two agents have been suspended since then.
U.S. border officials have been dealing with a growing number of migrant crossings in the past couple years. They reached 20 year-highs along the U.S. border in August, topping 195,000 encounters.
Many of Haitians interviewed by Reuters said they lived in South America, often Brazil or Chile, but decided to move on because they could not attain decent status there or struggled to secure decent jobs. Several Haitians said they were also encouraged by videos they saw on social media about getting asylum in the United States.
Their Caribbean homeland is long plagued by economic and political instability and repeated natural disasters. Most recently the President was assassinated in July, and in August the country was battered by two earthquakes and a powerful hurricane.
Haitian Alexandro Petitfrere, 30, said that when he left his difficult life as a construction worker in Mexico in July last, he hoped Mexico would prove a better home to Brazil.
But Petitfrere said police officers robbed him of $100 as he was crossing into Tapachula, in August, in the south of the country. Reuters was not able to confirm his allegation.
He said he then had to sleep in queues to get a permit to stay in the area, would not find work, struggled to afford accommodation and told there was rampant discrimination against Haitians.
If Mexico had given me an opportunity, I would have stayed in Mexico. From a single observation to Petitfrere, the entire line of 'La Croix' stopped doing something good.»