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Small percentage of Haitian migrants deported so far

Many of those encamped in Del Rio, Texas, remain or will be released into the country

Haitians wait for a bus in Del Rio, Texas, after being processed and released on Sunday. Associated Press/Photo by Eric Gay

Small percentage of Haitian migrants deported so far

Francois Baslet, 39, arrived at the U.S. southern border in Del Rio, Texas, late last week, joining thousands of other Haitian migrants hoping to get into the United States. Over the weekend, his brother called him. “He told me they were deporting people, so I crossed back,” Baslet told The El Paso Times. “Now I am hoping to get back to Mexicali today, God willing.”

The number of Haitian migrants camped under an international bridge in Del Rio surged to more than 14,000 last weekend, sparking a security and humanitarian crisis. In public statements, the Biden administration has emphasized its plans to send the migrants back to Haiti, sparking criticism from humanitarian groups and politicians. In practice, the administration has sent a small portion back to Haiti so far while releasing some of the migrants into the United States.

Haiti is reeling from political instability and the effects of natural disasters. Assassins killed President Jovenel Moise in July, leaving a replacement government with a tenuous grip on power. Gangs control many neighborhoods and limit the flow of goods and services in the country. A powerful earthquake struck southern Haiti in August, and a tropical storm drenched parts of the island not long after.

This summer, the Biden administration announced Haitians in the United States would receive temporary protected status (TPS). Those who were in the country before July 29, 2021, would be allowed to stay temporarily because of the dangers in their home country. The TPS designation does not apply to the migrants arriving in Del Rio. Most of them left Haiti after the devastating 2010 earthquake, traveling to Chile or Brazil for construction jobs preparing for the 2016 Olympics. When the games ended, so did the jobs. The migrants struggled to find work in South American countries’ weak economies. Many trekked through Central America and gathered in camps in Mexico, waiting for a chance to cross into the United States.

The Haitians who crowded the U.S. southern border hoped to claim asylum and stay in the United States as their cases moved through the notoriously backlogged system. The Biden administration sent hundreds of border agents and Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas to the area earlier this week.

“If you come to the United States illegally, you will be returned,” Mayorkas told migrants in Del Rio on Monday. “Your journey will not succeed, and you will be endangering your life and your family’s lives. This administration is committed to developing safe, orderly and humane pathways for migration. This is not the way to do it.”

In a statement about its plan for handling the migrant surge, DHS on Friday emphasized removal as the most likely outcome for the Del Rio migrants. Title 42 of the U.S. Code allows the government to expel most illegal immigrants immediately due to public health risks.

People who crossed the border illegally would either be sent to an Immigrations and Customs Enforcement (ICE) processing center and then deported or put directly on a flight back to Haiti, DHS said.

Kids in Need of Defense released a statement calling on the Biden administration to let the Haitians seek asylum in the country. “Ramping up deportations and sending Haitians in fear of harm back to a country still convulsing from a series of crises violates international law and is morally unacceptable,” it said.

But reports surfaced on Wednesday that many of the migrants taken in for ICE processing were being released into the United States with orders to appear at an immigration office in 60 days.

As of Tuesday, DHS had flown about 520 migrants back to Haiti, with more transports planned. About 4,000 migrants had been removed to processing centers. Others, like Baslet, returned to Mexico, where some have already received asylum. Mexico reportedly is detaining some of the Haitians who went back across the border to escape deportation by the United States. Texas Gov. Greg Abbott said Tuesday that about 8,600 migrants remained camped in Del Rio.

Charissa Koh

Charissa is a WORLD reporter who often writes about poverty-fighting and criminal justice. She resides with her family in Atlanta.



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