Diaspora

Arrests of Haitians crossing border illegally drop 99% in a year – Washington Examiner

Illegal immigration of Haitian citizens has plummeted by a staggering 99% in the past year after the Biden administration changed its rules about which immigrants could seek refuge at ports of entry.
The change in rules, quietly expanded this summer, came after more than 15,000 Haitian citizens came across the southern border into Del Rio, Texas, last September, culminating in an infamous incident involving Border Patrol agents on horseback.
Last September, 17,594 Haitian immigrants were arrested after crossing the U.S.-Mexico border between the ports of entry where vehicles are inspected. Last month, just 1% of that number, 179 Haitians, were apprehended by law enforcement.
By contrast, the number of Haitians approaching the ports of entry to seek admission has skyrocketed from 44 last September to 6,409 in August.
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Humanitarian and immigrant advocacy groups who help Haitian immigrants in northern Mexico told the Washington Examiner the Biden administration’s decision to allow more immigrants to seek admission on a humanitarian basis at the ports, despite a pandemic health policy still in effect that recommends all be turned away, gave immigrants a better way to receive assistance rather than come over illegally.
“After the successful mass exemption of Ukrainian nationals in March and April, the Biden administration began exploring a process to increase the number of asylum seekers exempted for humanitarian reasons at ports of entry. Through the late spring and summer, the number of Haitian migrants processed at ports of entry began rising,” said Aaron Reichlin-Melnick, policy director for the American Immigration Council in Washington, in a statement. “As these numbers increased, it appears to have had a dramatic effect on Haitians crossing between ports of entry.”
No formal policy is on the books greenlighting all Haitian citizens to approach the ports. Instead, the U.S. Customs and Border Protection-run ports of entry set their own processes and rules, as humanitarian groups work with immigrants who have made it to northern Mexico to determine who might qualify for the humanitarian exemption.
“They are allowed to seek asylum on a case-by-case basis,” said Alison Parker, managing director of Human Rights Watch’s U.S. program. “There’s not a blanket allowance for every Haitian to be able to claim asylum at ports of entry.”
Yet Haitians have become a top group to take advantage of this process, said Reichlin-Melnick.
The change was welcomed after a year in which the United States flew back to Haiti tens of thousands of immigrants. Just this past May, nearly half of the 7,762 Haitians who entered illegally were returned to Haiti.
One such immigrant, identified as Jacques in a statement issued from the Justice Action Center last week, said he was among those who crossed the Rio Grande last September and was subsequently sent back.
“It’s been one year since I was deported to Haiti. For the time being, I’m in Haiti because whatever means we had, we spent it, and we lost our identification papers. They threw away all our possessions, and we lost a lot of things,” he said. “The American government harmed us a great deal, treated us badly when we were in prison. I feel a lot of regret and fear when I look at the situation I managed to flee only to be returned to it.”
Conditions in Haiti’s capital of Port-au-Prince have further deteriorated over the past year. The United Nations reported that 540 people were kidnapped and 780 killed between January and May. In the final five months of 2021, 396 people were kidnapped and 668 killed due to gang violence.
“Returns to Haiti are life-threatening and will continue to be so if country conditions do not improve,” wrote Cesar Munoz, senior Americas researcher at Human Rights Watch, in a July blog post. “The United States and other governments should stop all repatriations and help set up a reintegration program to provide assistance and protection to those already repatriated.”
The Haitian Bridge Alliance sued the Biden administration in December 2021 on behalf of 11 Haitian citizens the lawsuit states were forced to live in abhorrent conditions in Del Rio.
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In a Sept. 21 letter to President Joe Biden, nearly 40 civil rights organizations petitioned the government to bring back the thousands of Haitians it removed from the country and stop all returns.
The Department of Homeland Security and its CBP did not respond to a request for comment.

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