Del Rio migrant crisis: How did so many Haitians end?
TEXAS, DEL RIO — Thousands of Haitian immigrants tented in Del Rio, Texas, after crossing the Rio Grande into the United States are awaiting deportation or choosing to remain and seek asylum.
But how did these Haitian migrants end up in Texas rather than Florida, a state that is closer to the Caribbean country?
Experts believe that many of those migrants were already in Central America, where strong natural catastrophes and a sometimes dysfunctional government have caused a continuous flow of out-migration for more than a decade.
However, as the epidemic continues to wreak havoc on Latin America’s economy, Haitian refugees are seeking asylum in the United States.
“The United States is always the ultimate objective,” said Eduardo Gamarra, a political science professor at Florida International University. “And the pattern wasn’t started by the Haitians; it starts by the Cubans. They’re the ones who blazed the way.”
2010 earthquake spurs migration
More than 1.5 million people were evacuated from the island country when a catastrophic earthquake struck in 2010. Following the earthquake, many Haitians fled to South and Central America.
For the 2014 World Cup and the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, Haitian migrants given work permits in Brazil.
For humanitarian grounds, they are also allow to acquire permanent residence.
According to El Pas, a Spanish daily newspaper, there will be around 143,000 Haitians in Brazil by August 2020.
The Haitian population in Chile has increased dramatically.
According to the Inter-American Dialogue, a Washington-based research organization, there were 64,567 Haitians in Chile in 2017, with an anticipated 150,000 Haitians there a year later.
Many Haitians were denied work permits in Chile due to the country’s procedures, according to Jacques Jonassaint, a former special envoy of President Emile Jonassaint to the Clinton administration.
“They didn’t get those visas because the Chilean government refused to provide them,” Jonassaint said. “And the reason for it is that getting a work permit in Chile is a long procedure,
and most Haitians don’t bring documentation with them.”
Tourist visas for Haitians were previously available in Chile,
but in 2018, Chilean President Sebastián Piera revoked temporary visas that enabled Haitians to transition from tourists to migrants once they found work.
According to Gamarra, many Haitians are likely to be undocumented in Latin American nations such as Chile, Brazil, and Ecuador, preventing them from being deported lawfully.
“They can’t even be deported to Mexico,”
he said, “since international law states that you must transfer to the country where you have legal residency or a country must agree to take you.”
“And, more than likely, due to their position, none of these nations will welcome Haitian immigration.”
Latin America especially severely affect by the COVID-19 epidemic. Brazil, the region’s biggest economy, fell by 4.1 percent last year, and COVID-19 has killed almost 600,000 people there.
What the border looks like now
Migrants have been freely crossing the Rio Grande from Ciudad Acuna, Mexico, to Del Rio, Texas, a population of approximately 35,000 people, for the last three weeks.
Mexican officials have also barred Haitians from entering Ciudad Acura and will begin deporting them. (Only migrants from Mexico, Guatemala, Honduras, and El Salvador are accepted in Mexico.)
On Monday, Secretary of Homeland Security Alejandro N. Mayorkas visited Del Rio and announced the deployment of 600 more Homeland Security troops.
Jonassaint also cited the absence of persecution of Haitians by their government as a cause for their expulsion from the United States.
“If you look at the rigorous respect to the law, both U.S. laws,
and international rules,” he added, “those individuals coming in from Chile
or via Mexico should not come to the United States legally seeking
or demanding asylum because their government is not persecuting them.”
However, Haitians cited the murder of President Jovenel Mose and a recent devastating earthquake in their country, both this year,
as causes for their apprehension of returning to their hometown.
Haitian migration via Texas is not a new occurrence,
according to Karla M. McKanders, an immigration law specialist at Vanderbilt University.
“It’s critical for people to understand that Haitian nationals utilizing
this alternate path to reach the southern border for a few years, if not longer,” Manders said.
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Del Rio migrant crisis: How did so many Haitians end up at the southern US border?