DEL RIO, Texas (CBSDFW.COM/AP) — At least two federal officials claim many of the Haitian migrants camped near and under a bridge in the small Texas border town of Del Rio are being released in the United States.

If true, the move undercuts the Biden administration’s public statements that the thousands in the camp faced immediate expulsion.

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Haitians have been freed on a “very, very large scale” in recent days, according to one U.S. official who put the figure in the thousands. The official, who has direct knowledge of operations, was not authorized to discuss the matter Tuesday and spoke on condition of anonymity.

Many have been released with notices to appear at an immigration office within 60 days, an outcome that requires less processing time from Border Patrol agents than ordering an appearance in immigration court and points to the speed at which authorities are moving, the official said.

The Homeland Security Department has been busing Haitians from Del Rio to El Paso, Laredo and the Rio Grande Valley along the Texas border, and this week added flights to Tucson, Arizona, the official said. They are processed by the Border Patrol at those locations.

A second U.S. official, also with direct knowledge and speaking on the condition of anonymity, said large numbers of Haitians were being processed under immigration laws and not being placed on expulsion flights to Haiti that started Sunday. The official couldn’t be more specific about how many.

For Haitians hoping to get to the United States, the administration’s decision to release many people is a welcome relief.

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Three hours after leaving the makeshift camp under the International Bridge with his pregnant wife, Mackenson Veillard stood outside a gas station in Del Rio waiting on a Greyhound Bus to take the couple to a cousin who is living in San Antonio.

Veillard was one of many to be processed and released on Monday, possibly because his wife is expecting their first child in two months.

“I felt so stressed,” Veillard said. “But now, I feel better. It’s like I’m starting a new life.”

However, the decision to release many Haitians, particularly without a clearly stated criteria for who stays and who gets returned to Haiti, will likely add to criticism of the White House, which is already facing bipartisan condemnation. Republicans say Biden administration policies led Haitians to believe they would get asylum. Democrats are expressing outrage after images went viral this week of Border Patrol agents on horseback using aggressive tactics against the migrants.

Attorneys and advocates say they have so far been denied access to the migrant camp underneath the international bridge in Del Rio and have been given very little information by officials on what is happening with the immigrants.

The releases in the U.S. were occurring despite the signaling of a massive effort to expel Haitians on flights to Haiti under pandemic-related authority that denies migrants an opportunity to seek asylum. A third U.S. official not authorized to discuss operations said there were seven daily flights to Haiti planned starting Wednesday.

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(© Copyright 2021 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)

CBSDFW.com Staff