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Haitians Make the Perilous Journey to the U.S.-Mexico Border

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Author: Ana Pereya Barón

In a time of crisis, the United States has failed its Haitian neighbors. Black Haitian migrants encounter many obstacles before they even reach the U.S.-Mexico border. The challenges Haitian migrants face on their journey to the border highlight the deep discrimination and anti-Blackness embedded in U.S. and Mexican government’s immigration policies. We saw the abusive treatment of Haitian migrants at our border in Del Rio seven months ago, but the reality is that not much has changed for Haitian migrants since then. 

Haitian migrants endure extreme dangers as they embark on the journey towards the U.S.-Mexico border. Many of them who arrive at the U.S.-Mexico border come from Chile and Brazil, where they have been living for years after fleeing their country. Leaving these countries, thousands of Haitian migrants cross through the Darien Gap, the notoriously dangerous region that connects Panama and Colombia. The International Organization for Migration reports that between January and October 2021, 100,000 migrants attempted to cross the Darien Gap, and 62% of the women who crossed the gap were Haitian. On their journey across the Americas, especially in the Darien Gap, women and girls face sexual and gender violence.

On top of the dangers of crossing the Darien Gap, Black Haitian migrants will face numerous challenges at the hands of Mexican enforcement officials. In addition to overcrowding in detention centers, Haitian migrants face anti-Blackness from Mexican migration and law enforcement agents and arbitrary arrests that target their community. They are subjected to horrific acts of brutality from Mexican police that are left in impunity. In detention centers, Haitian migrants are denied access to sanitation and medical care. “It’s like the blood that runs through their veins is not the same as the blood in our veins. They look at you like you are nothing because you’re Black,” one Haitian migrant reported on the brutality of the Mexican police.

But Mexico is not alone in its abusive acts towards Haitian migrants. We must also recognize the abuse coming from U.S. immigration policies. In its over two years of implementation, the inappropriate use of Title 42, the policy that denies access to asylum at the border using the rationale of COVID-19, has had a disproportionate impact on Haitian migrants. U.S deportation flights have sent Black Haitian migrants starving, sick, and handcuffed on their way back to a country with violence and poverty. Until it recently decided to end Title 42, the Biden Administration doubled down on the policy, removing more Haitians through Title 42 than during all of fiscal year 2020. Since the beginning of Title 42, over one-third of the expulsions to Haiti occurred during the Biden Administration

Seven months ago, we witnessed the excessive use of force by Border Patrol officers in Del Rio, Texas against Haitian migrants. Since the mass human rights violations in Del Rio in September of 2021, there have been 175 ICE Air removal flights to Haiti, expelling about 19,000 Haitians.

The U.S. government fails to assess the asylum cases of these Haitian deportees and ensure individuals are not being returned to persecution and torture. When Haitian migrants are returned to crisis-ridden Haiti, there is no follow-up or accountability for their suffering

Haiti is experiencing an ongoing humanitarian crisis. Earlier this year, Haitian President Jovenel Moise was assassinated, causing political turmoil. In August 2021, a 7.2 magnitude earthquake killed hundreds and left approximately 650,000 Haitians needing emergency humanitarian assistance. Two days after the earthquake, a tropical depression, Grace, hit the island, leaving 44% of the population suffering from food insecurity. On top of these human-inflicted and natural disasters, high levels of organized crime, poverty, and corruption continue to plague the country. 

But there is some hope. The Biden Administration has announced its plans to lift Title 42 on May 23rd. Until then, inhumane treatment and expulsions of Haitian migrants will continue. Although Title 42 coming to an end is a step towards restoring hope for migrants and asylum seekers, there is still much work to be done. The Biden-Harris Administration needs to recognize the particular needs of Haitian migrants, allow them to make their claims heard, and understand that immigration is a Black issue. President Biden must recognize the systemic racism in the U.S. immigration system and engage with civil society organizations to implement policies that ensure that Haitian migrants do not have to continue enduring human rights abuses on their journey to seek protection. We urge the Biden Administration to implement policies that ensure fair and humane protections for our Haitian neighbors and to exempt vulnerable populations, including Haitians, from Title 42 until May 23rd.

You have stood beside us in our commitment to rescind Title 42, which disproportionately impacts Black migrants on their journey to the U.S.-Mexico border. LAWG, along with many members of civil society, signed onto letters to Department of Homeland Security Secretary Mayorkas urging him to terminate Title 42 expulsions and to ensure humanitarian protection for returnees. Together, we advocated for our Haitian neighbors and others that arrive at our border. We sent President Biden a petition with over 2,000 signatures to stop the expulsion flights of asylum seekers fleeing violence. 

But the reality is that our work isn’t over. We must celebrate the victories that we have fought for together, like the end of Title 42 on May 23, but the reality is that until that happens, tens of thousands of Haitian migrants and others will continue suffering at the hands of the U.S and Mexican government’s immigration policies. The end of Title 42 cannot come quickly enough.