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Illustration by Security Management

U.S. Begins Mass Expulsion of Haitian Migrants

Thousands of Haitian migrants have been making their way north through Central America and Mexico toward the southern U.S. border, fleeing discrimination, economic collapse, and violence.

According to The New York Times, tens of thousands of Haitians fled Haiti after the catastrophic 2010 earthquake, heading to Chile or Brazil in search of jobs. When economic instability grew in the region, however, so did the backlash toward immigrants. The COVID-19 pandemic further reduced the number of jobs available to Haitians living in Brazil and other countries.

Many factors—from anti-immigrant violence or racism to lack of opportunities to work—are driving Haitians to seek different options further north. Haitians represent around 4 percent of the migrants encountered by U.S. border agents in August 2021, but the numbers are far higher than in recent years. In fiscal year 2021 (which ends 30 September), nearly 28,000 Haitians have been intercepted by U.S. Border Patrol along the U.S.-Mexico border, compared to 4,395 in 2020, The New York Times reported.

In the past week, 14,000 migrants converged on Del Rio, Texas, a border community, and many took refuge from the 99-degree Fahrenheit heat in the shade under the Del Rio International Bridge. The Del Rio Port of Entry was temporarily closed due to the influx of migrants, and traffic was rerouted 57 miles away to the Eagle Pass Port of Entry instead, U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) announced.

By 17 September, around 2,000 people had been moved to immigration and processing stations, and the U.S. government announced plans to fly migrants back to where they started their journeys north, according to the Associated Press. For many Haitian migrants, this means going back to a country where the government is in political crisis after the assassination of its president, an earthquake, and widespread gang violence, the BBC reported.

The rapid expulsions were possible due to a pandemic-related authority held over from former U.S. President Donald Trump’s term, which allows for migrants to be immediately removed without an opportunity to seek asylum. While U.S. President Joe Biden exempted unaccompanied children from the order, the rest stands, according to the AP. Most people being expelled back to Haiti are single adults, according to the Biden administration.

While the U.S. temporarily paused deportation flights to Haiti given the recent unrest and natural disasters, the surge in migrant crossings prompted the Biden administration to restart flights, the Times reported.

As of 19 September, more than 320 migrants arrived in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, on three flights, and more than a dozen additional flights were expected this week.

Haitian migration officials have asked for a “humanitarian moratorium” on the flights, however, because the country is in crisis and cannot provide for thousands of homeless deportees, according to the Times. According to a United Nations report, 800,000 people were affected by the 7.2 magnitude earthquake in August, and 650,000 people still need emergency humanitarian assistance—leaving little additional resources for the migrants being returned to the country.