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The number of Haitians deported by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement fell dramatically in June as the Biden administration has allowed more to enter the country through legal ports of entry to seek asylum, according to an internal planning document obtained by NBC News.
The policy has incentivized Haitians to come through legal ports of entry along the border rather than attempting to cross undetected, according to the document. They’re allowed entry after legal and immigration advocates file for them to be exempted from Title 42, the Covid-19 public health order that prevents migrants from staying in the U.S. to seek asylum.
Previously, Haitians were being rapidly sent back to Haiti on flights as part of Title 42. A total of 36 flights in May expelled or deported more than 4,000 Haitians.
Since more began being admitted at ports of entry in June, the number of Haitians apprehended between ports of entry has fallen from 7,694 to 130, according to internal Customs and Border Protection data. Meanwhile, 3,643 presented themselves at legal ports of entry and were allowed to stay in the U.S. to be processed and possibly pursue asylum claims. As a result, the last deportation flight carrying Haitians back to Haiti was June 3, the document said.
A Department of Homeland Security spokesperson said the agency continues to enforce Title 42, but that its ability to expel people may be limited for several reasons, “including operational constraints and whether Mexico or their country of origin are willing, and have the capacity, to receive those individuals.”
“DHS operates multiple expulsion and removal flights weekly to countries throughout the hemisphere, and routinely increases or decreases those flights in response to operational requirements,” the spokesperson said.
The Biden administration tried to end Title 42 on May 23, but the policy was held in place by a federal judge who sided with Republican-led states on the issue. Immigration advocates have blamed Title 42 for the recent deaths of migrants, including 53 who perished after being abandoned in an overheated tractor trailer last week. They argue Title 42 forces migrants into the dangerous hands of smugglers in order to evade detection.
“The main impact of deterrence policies is driving people into the arms of human smugglers, so that they end up taking increasingly dangerous routes,” said Oscar Chacòn, director of Alianza Americas, a coalition of 58 migrant-led advocacy organizations.
The Biden administration has been criticized for the way it handled a dramatic surge of more than 10,000 Haitians who gathered under a Texas border bridge last September in hopes of entering the U.S. Some advocates accused the administration of treating Haitians differently from Central and South American migrants who were allowed to stay and seek asylum.
Julia Ainsley is a correspondent covering the Department of Homeland Security and the Department of Justice for the NBC News Investigative Unit.
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