An Army veteran who organizes annual clean-ups of American cities has told of his shock at the squalid conditions along the U.S.-Mexico border, as thousands of mainly Haitian migrants gathered in the town of Del Rio.
John Rourke, founder of the Great American Clean-Up, said that he and his team were taken aback at the scenes.
Del Rio has seen a surge in migrant arrivals, with the city of 35,000 people seeing an estimated 14,000 mainly Haitian migrants reaching their district this weekend.
Alejandro Mayorkas, the Homeland Security Secretary, was in the city on Monday but Rourke told Tucker Carlson’s Fox News show that more needed to be done.
‘Let me tell you what I saw,’ Rourke said.
John Rourke on Wednesday night told of the distressing scenes he saw in Del Rio, Texas
A makeshift migrant camp is seen in Del Rio, Texas on Wednesday
Migrants, many from Haiti, are seen at an encampment along the Del Rio International Bridge
The migrants waded back and forth between Texas and Mexico, across the Rio Grande
A young child clings to their father as he wades across the river into the United States
‘I saw people washing babies in the Rio Grande.
‘I saw ladies breastfeeding babies, sleeping in dirt, 107 degrees outside, red ants everywhere, real coyotes – the ones that have four legs walking around.
‘It’s like Naked And Afraid: the southern border edition, out there.
‘People are literally knocking down trees and setting up lean-tos and teepees and sleeping under those.’
He said he and his colleagues ‘picked up thousands of pounds of garbage along the southern border.’
Photos of the distressing scenes have caused widespread anger.
Women and young children are seen lying on the ground of the camp among plastic bottles, empty Oreo packets and food containers
A young girl stands in the place that she currently calls home in a makeshift camp under the Del Rio bridge in Texas
A Haitian passport is seen in a pile of trash near the International Bridge between Mexico and the US Tuesday night
Desperate migrants, many of them families with young children, are being forced to sleep on the dirty ground or – if they’re fortunate – on cardboard boxes folded out flat.
Many of the 8,600 who remain there have resorted to fashioning makeshift tents using discarded clothing and tree branches in order to provide at least some shelter from the elements.
The heat has been punishing over the last week with temperatures soaring into the high 90s. Families have resorted to bathing in the grimy water of the Rio Grande river to cool off.
The squalor is more reminiscent of a Developing World country than the land of the American dream, which thousands of migrants have fled to in the hopes of claiming asylum and building a better life.
A migrant walks past a pile of garbage at the camp under the Del Rio bridge in Texas on the US-Mexico border Tuesday night
An aerial photo shows the huge piles of garbage which lie just steps away from the places young children sleep
Empty water bottles, food containers and other litter is strewn around while mountains of garbage tower up high into the air.
An aerial photo shows the huge piles of garbage from above, which are seen just steps away from the places young children call home.
In another image, women and young children are seen lying among plastic bottles and an empty Oreo packet, on the ground which is covered in the remnants of trees that have been used to fashion the shelters.
HAITIAN MIGRANT CRISIS IN NUMBERS:
Number of migrants in Del Rio at peak of crisis: 14,600
Number of migrants as of Tuesday evening: 8,600
Number deported to Haiti Sunday: 327
Number deported Monday: 233
Number deported Tuesday: 523
Total deported since flights began Sunday: 1,083
Number of deportation flights scheduled for Wednesday: 7
Another photo shows a Haitian passport in a pile of trash including empty aluminum cans, an old shoe and discarded clothing.
Rourke said that, as soon as he arrived, he and his team rescued struggling migrants from the river.
‘In 15 minutes we pulled three people out of the river,’ he told Carlson.
‘We went from picking up trash to pulling people from the river from Venezuela.’
He continued: ‘They come and go back and forth from Mexico just as me or you walk across the street. There’s nobody there to stop them. We spoke to a ton of them.
‘About 85 per cent of the people underneath that bridge were Haitian. The majority of them were coming to south Florida.
‘A lot of them are going to Miami, Fort Lauderdale, West Palm Beach, Orlando.’
The cramped conditions have also fueled fears of a COVID-19 outbreak – especially given that the migrants crossing the border are not required to be vaccinated before entering the US.
Rourke said that he asked them about their vaccination status, and many said they did not want to take it.
‘I asked them about COVID-19,’ he said.
‘I was there. I was asking them about whether or not they had been vaccinated, and if there was a vaccine available would you take it.
‘Emphatically said no, they would not take it.
‘A lot of them cited religious beliefs on the reason why they wouldn’t take it.’
And he said the migrants told him they were coming because Joe Biden made them feel more welcome than Donald Trump.
‘They’re coming here because where they’re coming from is so poor and they want the opportunity – they feel like this is the opportunity, now that the Biden administration is here, to leave the country they’ve been living in, Central America, places like Chile, and come here now.
‘And they told me to my face the reason why they’re here is because Joe Biden is allowing us to come here.
‘He’s a very humble man, he has a big heart, he loves the Haitian people, and we love him.
‘It was almost like the biggest Biden rally I’ve ever been to. Everybody that was there speaking about Joe Biden. They love him.’
Thousands are forced to sleep on the bare ground or on rugs laid among the debris of trees cut down to be used as shelter
Shocking images have emerged of the squalid and fetid migrant camp under the Del Rio bridge in Texas that is currently home to thousands of Haitian migrants
Almost 15,000 mostly Haitian migrants were camped out under the bridge at the weekend after crossing into the US from Mexico.
Many fled Haiti after the 2010 earthquake and have been living in South American countries including Brazil and Chile.
But since these nations have been ravaged by the COVID-19 pandemic, many Haitians have traveled up through South America and Mexico to seek asylum in the US.
Biden has been blamed after a May proclamation that Haitians in the US would not be deported for 18 months because of instability in their home country, and could apply for documentation to work in the US.
That only applied to Haitians already in the US at the time, but thousands have since made the trip to the border in a bid to take advantage of it.
Most of them live in Chile and Brazil, having moved there after the devastating 2010 earthquake that killed 200,000.
Border Patrol agents struggling to process the vast numbers of people quickly enough set up the makeshift camp under the bridge as a temporary home.
Last week, concerns rose that there would not be enough food, water and basic supplies to provide for the thousands of migrants living at the site.