MENARD: A humanitarian crisis at the border – Yale Daily News

10:24 pm, Oct 12, 2022

It’s been one year since those horrific images of Customs and Border Protection agents on horseback with whips in Del Rio, Texas. While public outrage at CBP’s actions has receded over the past year, conditions at the border continue to worsen. As a result of Title 42, a Trump-era policy that blocks individuals from seeking asylum at ports of entry on the southern border, migrants are forced to remain in Mexico or face potential deportation. 
I recently returned from a trip to the Mexico-U.S. border as a Haitian Creole translator with Project Corazon, an immigrants’ rights initiative run by Lawyers for Good Government (L4GG). I learned that most Haitian migrants left Haiti after the devastating 2010 earthquake. Many continue to flee due to the lack of security, political instability and devastation from natural disasters. Most aspire to reach the U.S.
As a member of the Haitian-American diaspora who follows news on the ongoing crisis in Haiti, what I witnessed in Reynosa, Mexico shocked me. I saw thousands of Haitian asylum seekers in Reynosa living in deplorable conditions, forced to wait for months on end in Mexico as the U.S. continues to enforce Title 42. The lucky ones are living in camping tents behind a shelter wall, protected from the violence and kidnappings perpetuated by the cartels that run Reynosa. The unlucky ones pitch tents next to the walls of the shelters and have no access to running water or regular food.
While Reynosa — just across the Rio Grande from Hidalgo, Texas — is no stranger to migrants, the city’s migrant support and shelter infrastructure has recently been completely overwhelmed by the sheer number of arrivals, the majority of whom are Haitian. Aid groups in the Rio Grande Valley are struggling to find Haitian Creole translators, which is how I came to fly from my home in Connecticut to the border to help for a few days. 
During my two days in Reynosa, I heard stories of mothers who experienced multiple miscarriages, several diagnoses of hernias, lack of proper nutrition, diabetes, children with fevers for days and parents and partners separated from their loved ones. Although migrants were grateful that they were on the inside of a shelter, many still felt unheard, unseen and forgotten. Most migrants had spent several years living in countries such as Chile and Brazil. 
On Tuesday, a lawyer for Project Corazon and I visited the largest shelter, Senda de Vida, where I translated a Know Your Rights presentation explaining the bureaucratic immigration process. The line to listen to our presentation — which we presented to groups of 12 to maintain crowd control — snaked around the compound, hundreds long. The desperation for better knowledge of their situation was palpable. 
During our presentation, migrants were told that Title 42 blocks them from applying for asylum, but that they can request humanitarian parole, a process that prioritizes women and children, members of the LGBTQ+ community and those with medical emergencies. The catch? The list of parole requests can take many months. 
In spite of all this, I came away from the trip with hope. We can act to help asylum seekers in Reynosa. 
First, we must collectively call on the Biden Administration to end Title 42, the policy that is causing thousands to live on the streets in Mexico while they are barred from pursuing their U.S. asylum claims. The result of maintaining this policy has resulted in deportations of Haitian migrants at drastically higher rates than other countries. It is a discriminatory policy that has a disparate impact on migrants of color, and it is against both U.S. and international immigration policy to block individuals from U.S. territory and not allow them to seek protection from persecution. In its place, the Biden Administration should establish a functioning asylum system with fair processes for all who seek protection in our borders. 
Second, we can help the helpers in Reynosa. The organization I traveled with, L4GG’s Project Corazon, are among the only attorneys that ever visit and provide pro bono legal services in the camps. They work closely with a group called the Sidewalk School, which also helps with immigration paperwork and other social needs. The shelters themselves, such as Senda de Vida and Kaleo, are run by fantastic organizations that also need our support. 
Finally, we can promise not to look away. This is a crisis that has not been solved. The U.S. immigration system is still broken and perpetuates control, violence and soul-breaking traumatic stress. The very least we can do is to support the organizations trying to save lives on the border while pushing to change the policies creating this humanitarian crisis.
SARAH MENARD is an M.Div. student at the Yale Divinity School. She can be reached at sarah.menard@yale.edu


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