Haitian Migration Crisis

    By Daniela Roldan Cabrera

    Last month, the world was shocked to discover thousands of Haitians in the U.S.-Mexico border hoping for asylum. The crisis might appear to some as a catastrophe that came out of nowhere. However, this problem has been brewing for years, and the issues the country has recently faced have only exacerbated and accelerated it. 

    First,  Haiti is the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere: it has little political, economic, or social stability. Many Haitians left their country over a decade ago, when the catastrophic earthquake of 2012 killed 220,000 people.1 They were searching for economic and political stability and settled in South America, particularly in Brazil and Chile, due to their need for cheap labor. This all changed during the pandemic. Work opportunities decreased and because of their precarious legal status, they decided to emigrate north. 

    Furthermore, this is not the only cause that has started this cascading stream of migration. Earlier this year, the president of the country, Jovenel Moise, was assassinated in his home by a group of mercenaries. A few weeks later, a devastating 7.2-magnitude earthquake left more than two thousand people dead and ten thousand others injured and affected. The deep rooted corruption, gang-violence, poverty, and the COVID-19 pandemic has further decreased the efficiency with which the country can recuperate.2 The country’s condition is spiraling downwards, and there is little international support given. Due to grave misinformation, a lot of them heard rumors that the U.S. was going to have open borders and that the area of Del Rio was a relatively safe point to cross. So, thousands of migrants arrived simultaneously and formed camps around the place. 

    From left to right: Laurent Saint-Cyr, President of the American Chamber of Commerce in Haiti; First Lady of Haiti Martine Moïse; President of Haiti Jovenel Moïse, and United States Ambassador to Haiti Michele Sison. 

    During the course of two weeks, Border Patrol agents apprehended and deported thousands of Haitian migrants that had been sheltering near Del Rio, Texas. There have also been images of abuses, showing agents riding on horses attempting to prevent immigrants from crossing the Rio Grande. These images of white, uniformed officers, with reins and riding on top of horses chasing black migrants in a river, and sometimes even pushing them in, have a gruesome symbolism to the past. They have triggered countries, institutions and individuals alike to demand a more humane treatment towards these migrants. They are people after all, and they would choose to live in their own country if they could. Another debated policy is how those “fortunate” enough to be taken into custody in the U.S. were strapped with ankle monitors in order to guarantee behavior while being processed.

    To be more specific, five thousand migrants, including families and small children, were deported on U.S.-chartered flights. These flights were seen as a policy that would deter future migrants from trying to cross. Twelve thousand migrants have also entered the country and are waiting for their asylum requests to be evaluated my immigration courts.

    Another policy that has received backlash is the use of Title 42. In March 2020, Donald Trump used the pandemic in order to instill Title 42, an emergency public health order that allows for the immediate expulsion of migrants under the pretense of health concerns due to a contagious disease.3 This means that agents can expel migrants without considering their asylum claims. Title 42 has stopped the highest number of migrants in 21 years (212,672).4 However, the claims to end the implementation of this policy has decreased its use throughout this year, bringing them to less than half of what they were at the beginning of the year. 

    This is a problem that has no easy solution. Many are still waiting at the border, even if the media has ceased to report the event. Right now, the people that are helping and supporting Haitian migrants are nonprofits and shelters in Mexico, which are being crushed by the weight of these migrant’s needs, and receiving little to no support by any government. How can these people hope for a better future or a semblance of stability, when they are not able to settle in their homeland and countries in America seem very uninterested in supporting them? One thing is clear, they are not giving up, migrants will keep showing up at the border because it is the only path they see as viable. It is their only chance at a new life.

    Footnotes

    1 “Why Are Haitian Migrants Gathering at the U.S. Border?,” Council on Foreign Relations (Council on Foreign Relations), accessed October 26, 2021, https://www.cfr.org/in-brief/why-are-haitian-migrants-gathering-us-border.

    2 Bernice A. King, “Haitian Migrants Seeking Asylum in the U.S. Deserve Better Treatment: Bernice A. King,” USA Today (Gannett Satellite Information Network, October 6, 2021), https://www.usatoday.com/story/opinion/voices/2021/10/06/inhumane-policies-against-haitian-migrants-must-end/6010132001/.

    3 Miriam Pensack et al., “For Haitians, the Border Crisis Doesn’t Stop with Del Rio,” The New Republic, October 26, 2021, https://newrepublic.com/article/163971/haitians-border-crisis.

    4 Julian Resendiz, “12,000 Haitian Migrants in Southern Mexico Is but ‘Tip of the Iceberg,’ Activist Says,” BorderReport (BorderReport, October 18, 2021), https://www.borderreport.com/hot-topics/immigration/12000-haitian-migrants-in-southern-mexico-is-but-tip-of-the-iceberg-activist-says/.

    By Daniela Roldan Cabrera Last month, the world was shocked to discover thousands of Haitians in the U.S.-Mexico border hoping for asylum. The crisis might appear to some as a catastrophe that came out of nowhere. However, this problem has been brewing for years, and the issues the country has recently faced have only exacerbated…

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