An unprecedented number of Haitian citizens were arrested at the U.S.-Mexico border in September, according to government figures published Friday, after thousands of migrants — many of whom fled poverty in Haiti and poor prospects in South America — crossed the Rio Grande and took up temporary residence in a crowded encampment under a bridge.
Haitian migrants cross the Rio Grande to Mexico, after another crossing point was closed near the … [+]
Border Patrol agents caught some 17,594 Haitian citizens crossing the U.S.-Mexico border last month, a massive jump from just 6,757 apprehensions in August, 4,990 in July, 5,693 in June and 2,714 in May, Customs and Border Protection said.
More than 45,000 people from Haiti have been arrested along the southern border in the fiscal year ending in September, up from under 4,400 in 2020, around 2,000 in 2019 and fewer than 100 in earlier years, according to historical data published by Border Patrol.
Over 88% of last month’s arrests took place in a border sector headquartered in Del Rio, Texas, after thousands of mostly Haitian migrants crossed the Rio Grande there and stayed in a makeshift camp underneath a bridge while awaiting processing — arrests of Haitian migrants were largely stable from August to September in other border sectors.
The Del Rio encampment’s population swelled to over 15,000 in mid-September, but it emptied out after the migrants either were put on removal flights to Haiti, were permitted to seek protection in U.S. immigration court or returned to Mexico, officials said.
About 6,366 Haitians arrested last month — or 36% of total arrestees — were rapidly expelled from the United States via a pandemic-era policy called Title 42, up from just 599 Haitians who were subject to the policy in August, reflecting the government’s push to fly people directly from Del Rio to the Haitian capital of Port-au-Prince.
185,515. That’s how many total arrests Border Patrol made at the southern border in September, down 6% from August. In the 2021 fiscal year, the agency logged its highest arrest figures in decades, though that’s partly because Title 42 — the rapid expulsion policy — has caused an unusual number of migrants to cross the border and get arrested multiple times.
Haitian migrants represented fewer than 10% of last month’s border arrests. By comparison, around 30% of arrestees were Mexican citizens, and more than 33% hailed from the “Northern Triangle” region of Central America: Honduras, Guatemala or El Salvador.
In recent months, Haiti has grappled with a pandemic, an earthquake and a political crisis sparked by the president’s July assassination. But many migrants who arrived at the U.S.-Mexico border last month initially left Haiti years ago, amid poverty, crime, hurricanes and a brutal 2010 earthquake. Scores of people moved from Haiti to Brazil and Chile after 2010, but discrimination and poor economic prospects later drove some of them to look north. The journey from South America to the U.S. border is treacherous: Migrants often need to cross the Darien Gap — a lawless jungle spanning the Colombia-Panama border — on foot, hiking rugged pathways awash with smugglers, before making their way through Central America and Mexico. Despite the risk, over 90,000 people crossed the Panama-Colombia border in the first nine months of 2021, around 60% of whom were Haitian, and migration more than doubled from June to August, according to Panamanian government figures. Some migrants who manage to reach Mexico end up staying there for long periods, but word-of-mouth rumors about lenient policies in certain sectors of the U.S. border can drive people to attempt to enter the United States at particular times, several media outlets have reported.
“When people take that route, some crossing 11 borders with no money, food or water, that demonstrates the level of desperation they’re feeling,” Taisha Saintil from the nonprofit Haitian Bridge Alliance told the Texas Tribune earlier this month.
Some observers have criticized the Biden administration’s response to last month’s Haitian migration influx. Border Patrol agents on horseback were spotted corralling migrants near Del Rio, causing DHS to suspend horse patrols in the area. Advocates and Democratic politicians have also blasted the administration for rapidly flying thousands of people back to Haiti, tying in with longstanding concerns that Title 42 prevents migrants from seeking asylum. The ACLU said the Biden administration is “writing its own chapter in the United States’ shameful history of racial discrimination toward Haitians and other Black immigrants.”
Meanwhile, some Republicans have blamed President Joe Biden for the influx, and for a rapid rise in overall border crossings this year. The Biden administration says arrests are on the rise due to violence and poverty in migrants’ home countries, but opponents argue Biden’s rollback of stringent Trump-era immigration rules has given migrants an incentive to cross.
Haiti isn’t the only far-afield country to log an increase in migration. Southern border arrests have also increased this year for citizens of Venezuela (10,791 arrests last month) and Cuba (4,799 arrests), two countries facing economic and political turmoil.
Migrants From India, Romania, Venezuela And Other Far-Flung Places Contribute To Record-Breaking Arrests At U.S.-Mexico Border (Forbes)
I am a breaking news reporter at Forbes. I previously covered local news for the Boston Guardian, and I graduated from Tufts University in 2019. You can contact me at
I am a breaking news reporter at Forbes. I previously covered local news for the Boston Guardian, and I graduated from Tufts University in 2019. You can contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter at @joewalshiv.