Haitian Migrants at the U.S. Border

An overview of the recent events at the US/Mexico Border

 Photo by Fibonacci Blue and licensed under CC BY 2.0

Many Haitians are fleeing Haiti and heading to countries in South America as well as the United States. To understand why, it’s important to take a brief look at Haiti’s recent history. In 2010, a 7.0 magnitude earthquake hit Port-au-Prince, the capital of Haiti. In the wake of this disaster, and with lukewarm humanitarian aid, the country was unable to fully recover. A cholera outbreak further destabilized the situation. More recently, Haiti’s president was assassinated earlier this July, throwing the country into a political turmoil. In August, Haiti suffered another massive earthquake that killed more than 2,000 people. All of these factors, combined with a rise in anti-immigrant sentiment in many South American countries, have contributed to drive Haitian migrants to the US border to seek asylum. 

Haitian migrants have gathered in the thousands at a Texas border town called Del Rio. Some migrants have been released into the US, but many have been forcibly flown back to Haiti or sent back to Mexico without being granted asylum. The Biden administration is able to deny asylum far more easily because of a Trump era law in the immigration code known as Title 42.

Title 42 is a health measure implemented at the start of the coronavirus pandemic that allowed the Trump administration to quickly deport asylum-seekers in order to preserve public health. However its continued use by the Biden administration is drawing scrutiny after thousands of Haitian migrants were deported back to Haiti in the past two weeks. There are numerous legal battles circling in the courts surrounding the issue of Title 42, but as of September 30th, a federal appeals court allowed the Biden administration to continue using Title 42 to deport Haitian migrants at the border. 

The chilling photographs recently released of US border police on horseback, chasing down Haitian asylum-seekers and in some cases whipping them, paint a depressing picture of the state of our country’s reckoning with immigration. There were many who saw the election of Biden as a step forward from the xenophobic and racist rhetoric that characterized the Trump administration’s immigration stance. But so far, almost a year into his presidency, Biden’s immigration policies have continued to mimic those of his predecessor. 

As many Haitians were turned away from the US, they fled back into Mexico, placing enormous pressure on the country’s asylum system. Mexico has seen a 70% increase in asylum requests compared to 2019. It remains to be seen whether the country will be able to handle this surge. If it can’t, the future looks unsteady for many Haitian migrants.  However, there are many organizations working to provide relief and support for asylum seekers. In Texas, Houston Haitians United is working to provide resources for refugees in the transition period of entering the US. UNICEF USA is distributing food, water, and other basic necessities to Haitian migrants in Mexico. The World Central Kitchen is working directly in Del Rio to feed the thousands of migrants waiting to cross into the US or be forced back into Mexico. Dozens of other nonprofit organizations have risen admirably to the current crisis, but these are ultimately band-aid solutions to the growing problem of immigration at our southern border. It will take fundamental changes, starting with President Biden, to begin to reverse the anti-immigration policies of the former administration.

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