CIUDAD ACUNA, Mexico (Reuters) – Betania Dominique and Ener Montimar left Haiti nearly a year ago for a better life, a journey that eventually led them to a camp next to the Rio Grande river in Texas to await U.S. immigration processing.
On Sunday, Montimar, 42, was summoned by U.S. border officials to board a bus leaving the site, his wife said. She has not heard from him since.
Dominique, 43, now fears her husband of 10 years has been sent back to their crisis-stricken homeland.
The camp under the international bridge in Del Rio, Texas, became a gathering point for as many as 14,000 migrants in recent days, mostly from Haiti. Many – like Dominique and her husband – came from as far as Chile.
U.S. authorities have taken 4,000 migrants from the Del Rio camp to detention for processing and sent at least several hundred back to Haiti on flights since Sunday.
“When he left, a relative called me and said to go back to Mexico… They’re deporting everyone under the bridge,” Dominique said, after wading back through the Rio Grande to join a fast-growing camp on the Mexican side.
Haiti’s migration office said Montimar was not on the list of passengers flown back to Haiti on Sunday or Monday.
Reuters could not immediately confirm if Montimar was set to leave on one of the four flights to Haiti scheduled for Tuesday or if he had been taken to a detention center.
Dominique’s last few calls to Montimar went unanswered.
A WhatsApp message asking in Haitian Creole “Love, how are you?” received no reply. Dominique’s eyes welled with tears as she showed a photo of Montimar in an orange sweatshirt, smiling confidently.
The two set off about a year ago from Jacmel, a coastal colonial town in southern Haiti that has struggled to recover from a 2010 earthquake, making jobs scarce.
They sent their son to live with Dominique’s brother in the neighboring Dominican Republic while a daughter in Haiti studied pediatrics until money ran out, Dominique said.
The couple lived in Chile for a few months but said they had struggled to find work and pay the rent. They sold a plot of land in Haiti to finance a trip on foot and by bus to the United States, Dominique said.
The trip took them across 11 countries and the treacherous jungle of the Darien Gap – one of Latin America’s last wildernesses – on the isthmus of Panama, the gateway to Central America.
The last time Dominique saw her husband, they talked about their children. They did not want to return to Haiti, she said.
“Almost every day there’s a storm; there’s an earthquake. We don’t have a president: we don’t have a real government,” she said. “What are we going to do with our kids?”
Dominique said she plans to seek work in Mexico until she and her husband can reunite, perhaps somewhere else in Latin America.
“We have nothing in Haiti,” she said.
(Reporting by Daina Beth Solomon; Additional reporting by Gessika Thomas in Port-au-Prince; Editing by Rosalba O’Brien)