How hope, fear and misinformation drove thousands of Haitians to the US border
The United States is home to around one million Haitians, with the largest numbers concentrated in Miami, Boston and New York. But Haitian communities have flourished in Maryland, Ohio, North Carolina and California.
This week, the United States resumed deportation flights to Haiti under Title 42, an emergency public health order that empowered the government to seal the border and turn back migrants during the pandemic. Immigration and Customs Enforcement repatriated around 90 Haitians, including families, on Wednesday.
The move drew strong reprimands from immigrant advocates and lawmakers who said the administration should offer Haitians legal protection and the ability to seek asylum rather than repatriating them to their home countries. struggling just a month after the earthquake.
“It is cruel and wrong to send someone back to Haiti now,” said Steve Forester, immigration policy coordinator at the Institute for Justice and Democracy in Haiti.
But the return of Haitians to their country of origin is “essential to prevent this kind of situation from developing,” said Mark Krikorian, executive director of the Center for Immigration Studies, which promotes immigration control. “If a Haitian who arrives at the US border is free of domicile, then more people will. If you have lived in Brazil or Chile for years, one of your children was born here, you are not entitled to asylum. You have been firmly resettled in another country.
At the spillway north of the Del Rio International Bridge, a two-lane artery that connects the small, bicultural town to Mexico, on Friday, migrants from the growing crowd became restless while waiting to be processed by border officials. They wandered around the camp, which was filling with hundreds of new arrivals on Friday, and crossed the Rio Grande to Ciudad Acuña, where they bought as much hot food and cold drinks as they could carry.
Near the bridge, enterprising migrants have settled in, shouting their goods and prices. It was like an open-air market, and by mid-afternoon the piles of garbage were strewn across the dirt floor. As the sun intensified, so did the dust, which left a thin layer on clothes, cellphones and bodies.