The Crisis Continues

BOSTON, MA - 9/24/2021 Géralde Gabeau, executive director of Immigrant Family Services Institute, Inc., leads the crowd in a chant while gathered outside of the JFK building in Boston to protest the treatment of Haitian migrants by the Biden Administration. More than 100 Haitian community leaders, immigration advocates, and allies gathered Friday morning at the John F. Kennedy Federal Building to denounce the Biden administration’s treatment of Haitian migrants at the Texas-Mexico border. Erin Clark/Globe Staff TOPIC: 25HAITIRALLY

Haiti has seen endless crises for the last ten years, including a 2010 earthquake that killed 200,000 Haitians. A year after the disaster, over 1,000,000 Haitians continued to live in tents, making Haiti one of the poorest countries today. The Covid-19 pandemic has had further devastating effects on their economy, only giving desperate Haitians more of a reason to make the perilous journey to the United States. 

Seeking stability and an escape from endless political turmoil, poverty, and conflict, Haitians are making the incredibly dangerous journey to ports of entry at the U.S. border. Five years ago, Haitians flocked to Brazil to accept job opportunities building the 2016 Olympic Stadium. However, the jobs provided only temporary support, and citizens of Haiti were left with few options. Therefore, most Haitians are trekking from other countries, some traveling for years, clinging to hope of entry.

In 2018, 126,000 visas were issued to Haitian citizens through the Haitian government. In the past year, approximately 3,000 have been granted. The sharp decrease in numbers accentuated already high tensions, prompting many to abandon their lives and travel to the United States. Many Haitians were under the false impression that they would be welcomed. Guerline M. Jozef, the executive director of the Haitian Bridge Alliance states, “False information, misinformation, and misunderstanding might have created a false sense of hope.” This misinformation also included false rumors on social media, claiming the Biden administration was handing out humanitarian visas to Haitians. Others traveled with the belief that those who have suffered persecution are eligible for asylum at a port of entry. Many of these rumors have been met with the Title 42 decree, which allows U.S. authorities to automatically expel almost all undocumented migrants seeking entry. This bypasses normal immigration laws and protections, as it attempts to prevent the spread of COVID-19. 

In the current fiscal year, 28,000 Haitians have been intercepted at border control in the United States. In prior years, numbers were less than a quarter of today’s, reaching 4,395 in 2020. Today’s numbers have reached a 21-year high, coinciding with Biden’s presidency. In recent weeks, migrants have camped under the Del Rio International Bridge at the border of Texas, desperately awaiting the possibility of entry. 

President Biden condemns the Border Patrol treatment of Haitian migrants. Many migrants were mistreated by officials who were supposed to be aiding them. Biden stated, “I promise you, those people will pay. There is an investigation underway right now and there will be consequences.” The Department of Homeland Security is conducting an investigation into the events that unfolded at the current holding camp. 

Eventually, 12,400 migrants will eventually have their cases heard by an immigration judge, many of whom hope to obtain temporary visas and asylum. Biden has also enacted a reunification task force to reunite refugee children with their families. However, many migrants have been deported back to Haiti, where they will be met with the same dire circumstances they fought so hard to escape. Thousands still continue to flock to the U.S., despite not qualifying for protected status programs. These protection programs only apply to migrants who are already in the U.S. Haitians are collectively looking for a better life, and have turned to the U.S. as their last resort, but with disappointing results.