“We told our son we were camping so he wouldn’t worry,” said the 33-year-old migrant from Venezuela, who crossed the shallow waters of the Rio Grande with her partner and their four-year-old child.
“You’re thinking, What will happen to us?” she said of the two days they spent in the teeming staging area shaded by the bridge between Texas and Ciudad Acuña in northeastern Mexico.
“These people are desperate … and they’re determined to get here,” said Val Verde County Sheriff Joe Frank Martinez.
Many Haitians are believed to have been living in South America after the 2010 earthquake in Haiti but the economic toll of the pandemic on the region fueled migration to the US southern border.
A Homeland Security official said Thursday that expulsion and deportation flights to Haiti will continue.
Del Rio Mayor Bruno Lozano, a Democrat, has asked the Biden administration for additional resources and manpower, saying that it could take weeks to process the migrants now amassed at the border.
“The Border Patrol is unfortunately strained to its limit, beyond limit,” he said.
In a statement, the Border Patrol said it was boosting the number of agents in the area to “immediately address the current level of migrant encounters and to facilitate a safe, humane and orderly process.”
The shaded area under the international bridge is being used as a temporary staging area to “prevent injuries from heat-related illness” while migrants wait to be taken into custody, according to the Border Patrol. More drinking water, food, towels and portable toilets were being delivered to the area, the agency said.
Images from the area show crowds of migrants at the makeshift camp while others wade across the Rio Grande near the bridge. Some carried young children across the knee-length water; others hauled their belongings in plastic bags or gallons of water. At the camp, tents fashioned from blankets and pieces of wood were erected. Clusters of clothes were laid out on the ground to dry under a searing sun.
Lozano said at least one woman had given birth at the staging area.
Most of the migrants will be expelled or placed in removal proceedings, according to federal officials.
Villasmil, who arrived by bus at a migrant center after being processed, said her family was fleeing political persecution in Venezuela.
At the staging area after crossing the Rio Grande, she said, her family was issued a ticket with a number. They waited two days to be processed. Now they were hoping to make it to San Antonio, about 150 miles away, where they plan to stay with a relative.
At the center run by the Val Verde Border Humanitarian Coalition, the migrants have access to phones, restrooms, clean clothing and food.
“It’s sad,” Villasmil said. “You leave the problems in your country and you come here.”
Her four-year-old son wore a red shirt that said, “Good Vibes.” The boy romped around three backpacks — one with Paw Patrol cartoon characters — stuffed with their belongings.
CNN’s Priscilla Alvarez, Julia Jones and Brad Parks contributed to this report.