FAA Bans Drone Flights Over Texas Bridge After Thousands of Haitians Filmed Flocking to Area
12:28 GMT 17.09.2021 (Updated: 12:52 GMT 17.09.2021)
On Friday, Republican Senator Ted Cruz insisted that at least 10,503 "illegal aliens" are currently under a bridge in south Texas, part of the migration crisis that he claimed "was entirely caused" by President Joe Biden.
The US Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has banned unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) from flying over the Del Rio Bridge in south Texas, where up to 10,000 migrants, mostly Haitians, earlier formed a camp after crossing illegally.
In a notice on Thursday evening, the FAA announced a two-week no-fly zone for drones in the area, citing unspecified "special security reasons".
Fox News later reported that the no-fly zone was imposed at the request of the US Border Patrol, who claimed that drones were "interfering with law enforcement flights on the border".
The move came after aerial drone images of the growing camp surfaced in the early hours of Thursday, showing a massive group of migrants
accumulating under the bridge.
Del Rio Mayor Bruno Lozano put the figure of refugees at more than 10,500 as of Thursday night, urging US President Joe Biden to grapple with the "ongoing crisis" in the Texas border town.
Referring to the drone ban, Republicans were quick to accuse the Biden administration of censorship, with Senator Ted Cruz describing the ban as "ridiculous".
"I've never seen anything like that. The drone footage started this morning, and people all across the country were horrified, and I guess the political operatives at the Biden White House saw that", Cruz told Fox News on Friday.
Separately, he tweeted that "10,503 illegal aliens are under this bridge tonight […]", adding, "the Border Patrol is overcapacity. It's indefensible, it's inhuman, and it was entirely caused by Biden & Harris".
The remarks followed Democrat Ayanna Pressley slamming the Biden administration's decision to resume deportation flights to Haiti despite the country's ongoing political, economic, and environmental disasters.
"That ICE [Immigration and Customs Enforcement] would continue to carry out the mass deportations of our Haitian neighbours—with Haiti in the midst of its worst political, public health and economic crises yet—is cruel and callous", Pressley asserted.
Haiti is now in the grip of a humanitarian crisis following a 7.2-magnitude earthquake that killed more than 2,200 people and damaged or destroyed more than 100,000 homes on 14 August. The Caribbean nation is also dealing with political instability after the assassination of former President Jovenel Moise in June.
On Wednesday, ICE expelled 86 Haitian nationals from the US and flew them back to their country. In a separate development this week, the US Coast Guard repatriated 102 Haitians to their homeland after their boat was intercepted about 17 miles away from Miami.
Texas Governor Greg Abbott has, meanwhile, said that he's ordered state troopers and the Texas National Guard "to shut down six points of entry along the southern border" at the request of the US Customs and Border Protection, also pointing the finger at the Biden administration.
"The Biden administration is in complete disarray and is handling the border crisis as badly as the evacuation from Afghanistan. I have directed the Texas Department of Public Safety and the Texas National Guard to maintain their presence at and around ports of entry to deter crossings", Abbott argued.
Shortly after assuming office in January, Biden began to reverse Trump's hardline immigration policies
, halting construction of a border wall, moving to end "harsh and extreme immigration enforcement", and promising to "restore and expand" the asylum system.
Other moves included rescinding the Trump travel ban and promising a "path to citizenship" for more than 11 million undocumented immigrants already living in the US. Former US President Donald Trump has repeatedly lashed out at Biden's migration policy, arguing that when he was president, the country's southern border was "in great shape – stronger, safer, and more secure than ever before".