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Mexican officials use bulldozers to clear migrant tent camp at US border

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Mexican officials worked with bulldozers Wednesday to clear out a ragged migrant tent camp next to the Rio Grande in Matamoros, Mexico.

Migrants at the encampment in Matamoros, which borders Brownsville, Texas, first moved into the area in late 2022. The encampment once held as many as 1,500 migrants, but many of the temporary shelters were vacated in recent months as the migrants fled to reach the U.S.

The removal came as a top level U.S. delegation met with Mexico’s president in Mexico City’s National Palace to discuss how to curb the unprecedented surge of migrants reaching the U.S. border.

The meeting included U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken, Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador and others.

TEXAS HAS ARRESTED THOUSANDS AT THE US-MEXICO BORDER AS STATE EXPANDS POWERS TO ARREST MIGRANTS

Migrants line up after being detained by U.S. immigration authorities at the border wall, seen from Ciudad Juarez, Mexico, Wednesday, Dec. 27, 2023. (AP Photo/Christian Chavez)

On Wednesday, Matamoros officials said the operation mostly consisted of removing abandoned tents.

“What we are doing is removing any tents that we see are empty,” Segismundo Doguín, the head of the local office of Mexico’s immigration agency, told The Associated Press.

One Honduran migrant, simply identified by his first name José, however, claimed he and some of the 200 remaining migrants had been forced to leave the camp when the clearance operation began.

“They ran us out,” he said, adding the migrants were given just a moment’s notice before it began. “You had to run for your life to avoid an accident.”

MIGRANT CRISIS INCREASING STRAIN ON BORDER OFFICIALS, IMMIGRATION COURTS WITH MASSIVE NUMBERS

Some migrants relocated to another area of the encampment while others fled.

Migrants, tents

Migrants at the encampment in Matamoros, which borders Brownsville, Texas, first moved into the area in late 2022. (Joe Raedle/Getty Images)

About 70 migrants crossed the Rio Grande and traveled into the U.S. It is not immediately clear if there were any injuries or deaths among these crossings, but several people drowned attempting to cross the river earlier in the week.

The U.S. and Mexico are currently negotiating how to help curb illegal border crossings, with both sides saying the other needs to do more.

Multiple tents

Thousands of migrants stayed at an encampment as lightning crashes and rain floods the area on May 13, 2023, in Matamoros, Mexico. (Carolyn Van Houten/The Washington Post via Getty Images)

This month, as many as 10,000 migrants were arrested daily on the southwest U.S. border.

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The U.S. temporarily closed key border rail crossings into Texas, urging Mexico to do more to stop migrants from hopping on freight cars, buses and trucks to get across the border.

Mexico’s López Obrador says he is willing to help, but wants the U.S. to send financial assistance to migrants’ home countries as well as reduce or eliminate sanctions on Cuba and Venezuela.

US, Mexican officials

Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador, center, meets with Secretary of State Antony Blinken, top left, and others at the National Palace in Mexico City, Wednesday, Dec. 27, 2023. (AP Photo/Fernando Llano)

Mexico has over 32,000 soldiers and National Guard troopers – about 11% of its total forces – assigned to enforce immigration laws.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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