A MARTINEZ, HOST:
The Del Rio International Bridge has reopened to trade and travel. The bridge between the United States and Ciudad Acuna, Mexico, was shut down earlier this month when as many as 16,000 migrants, mostly from Haiti, set up an impromptu camp underneath the bridge. These migrants were part of an earlier exodus from Haiti to South and Central America. Stephania Corpi from Texas Public Radio has this report.
STEPHANIA CORPI, BYLINE: The massive camp in Del Rio has now been emptied out. Over the past week, the U.S. government relocated about 16,000 people, many on flights back to Haiti. The southern arrival and encampment of the Haitian migrants led to the closing of the international bridge. The bridge is an economic lifeline to Ciudad Acuna. In total, nearly $2.8 billion have been traded across the Del Rio International Bridge since January. Luis Angel Urruza, president of the National Chamber of Commerce in Ciudad Acuna, estimates losses of close to $8 million for the city just last week. He says the reopening could not have come soon enough. Anything longer, he says, would have been a disaster.
LUIS ANGEL URRUZA: (Through interpreter) There would have been a huge collapse, and immediately small businesses would close.
CORPI: This weekend, Mexican police arrived early in the morning to push the migrants out of the camp and into a temporary shelter. I spoke with a Haitian woman at the camp named Betania. Fearing retaliation, she asked we only use her first name. Betania says the Mexican police make her nervous.
BETANIA: (Through interpreter) You can't really sleep in the camp. I'm in God's hands alone.
CORPI: Around 250 Haitian migrants eventually agreed to go to Salon Fandango, an abandoned event venue, to be housed. However, when the first van arrived at the temporary shelter, much of the building was lacking a roof. There were no showers. Mattresses would come later in the day. Gerardo Ledesma, pastor of Casa de Alabanza, brought food to the migrants at the shelter.
GERARDO LEDESMA: (Through interpreter) I'm seeing the need. The authorities have not provided the support, until now that they have moved them here.
CORPI: Ledesma accused the U.S. and Mexican governments of rushing to clear the camps and harassing the migrants. The question now is whether more Haitian migrants will try and head north. An early indication comes from Central America. Each day, an estimated 2,500 Haitians are arriving by land in Panama from South America. From there, many of the migrants continue to Mexico and, they hope, to the United States.
For NPR news, I'm Stephania Corpi in Ciudad Acuna.
(SOUNDBITE OF MARY LATTIMORE'S "PINE TREES")
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