DEL RIO, TEXAS – After entering the US via the Rio Grande, thousands of Haitian immigrants camping in Del Rio, Texas, are either waiting for deportation from US authorities or deciding to seek refuge and seek asylum .
But how did these Haitian immigrants make their way into Texas instead of entering from Florida – a state that is closer to the Caribbean nation?
Many of those migrants, experts say, were likely already in Central America, as powerful natural disasters and an often-failed government prompted a steady flow of outbound migration for more than a decade.
But now, with economic opportunities drying up in Latin America as the pandemic continues, Haitian migrants are seeking asylum in the US
“The ultimate target is always the United States,” said Eduardo Gamara, a professor of political science at Florida International University. “And the pattern is the one that wasn’t actually started by the Haitians, it was started by the Cubans. They are the ones who set the path.”
2010 earthquake fueled migration
The devastating 2010 earthquake displaced more than 1.5 million people from the island nation. Later, many Haitians left their homeland for South and Central America.
In Brazil, Haitian immigrants were granted work visas for the 2014 World Cup and the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro. They were also able to obtain permanent residency for humanitarian reasons. As of August 2020, there were over 143,000 Haitians in Brazil, by country, a daily newspaper in Spain.
In Chile, the Haitian population jumped. There were 64,567 Haitians in Chile in 2017, with an estimated 150,000 Haitians in Chile in 2018. According to the Inter-American Dialogue, a think-tank based in Washington.
Jacques Jonassant, a former special envoy to President mile Jonassant in the Clinton administration, says many Haitians in Chile did not get work visas because of the country’s lengthy process.
“They didn’t get those visas; the Chilean government refused them visas,” Jonassant said. “And this is because getting a permit to work in Chile is a process that is very lengthy and most Haitians do not carry the paperwork with them.”
Haitian citizens were able to obtain tourist visas in Chile but in 2018 Chilean President Sebastian Pinera canceled temporary visa This allowed Haitians to move from tourists to expatriates after getting jobs.
Gamara says it is possible that many Haitians in Latin American countries such as Chile, Brazil and Ecuador were undocumented, meaning they would not be able to legally be deported to those countries.
“They also can’t be deported to Mexico because under international law, you have to be deported to the country where you have a legal residence or a country has to agree to accept you,” he said. “And most likely, none of these countries are willing to accept Haitian migrants because of their status.”
what does the border look like now
For three weeks, migrants have crossed the Rio Grande from Ciudad Acua in Mexico freely to Del Rio, Texas – a city of about 35,000 people.
Images of US border agents chasing Haitian migrants White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki called the images “horrible” and Democratic lawmakers went horse-riding Monday, demanding accountability.
Mexican authorities have also blocked entry to Ciudad Acua and will begin deporting Haitians. (Mexico only accepts immigrants from Mexico, Guatemala, Honduras, and El Salvador.)
Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro N. Mayercas visited Del Rio on Monday and said an additional 600 Homeland Security personnel have been sent there
Jonassant also pointed to the lack of persecution on the part of his government as a reason he was being driven out of the US so quickly.
“If you look at the strict observance of the law of both US laws and international laws, people coming through Chile or Mexico should not come to the United States at all, legitimately, to seek or request asylum because There is no harassment against him by his government,” he said.
But Haitians point to the assassination of President Jovenel Mosse and the recent devastating earthquake, both this year, in their homeland, as reasons they fear returning to Haiti.
An immigration law specialist at Vanderbilt University, Carla M. McCanders said Haitian migration through Texas is not a new phenomenon.
“It’s important for people to recognize that Haitian citizens have been using this alternative route to get to the southern border for a few years, maybe even a little more,” McCanders said.
More than 320 migrants were repatriated to Port-au-Prince on three flights on Sunday and Haiti says it is expecting six flights on Tuesday, According to the Associated Press.
Trump enacted Title 42 that allowed the expedited removal of asylum seekers to prevent the spread of COVID-19 in holding facilities last year. President Joe Biden continues Trump-era policy; However, Children and some families are exempt.
Campbell, a professor of African American studies and political science at the Maxwell School at Syracuse University, spoke out vehemently against deportation. “The United States is succumbing to the white supremacist hysteria in this country by deporting these Haitians,” Campbell said.
Contributions: Sarah Elbeshbishi, Chelsea Cox, USA Today; The Associated Press