EL PASO, Texas (Border Report) – Haitians had been fleeing political violence long before Wednesday’s assassination of President Jovenel Moise.
But U.S.-based activists say the killing illustrates the credible fear over conditions of insecurity that are forcing thousands of Haitian citizens to make their way to the U.S.-Mexico border in search of asylum. They say it’s time the United States stops expelling them to Mexico or, in some cases, flying them right back to danger.
“We ask President Biden to immediately stop all deportations – all expulsions – and release Haitian asylum-seekers who have been caged at immigration detention centers,” said Guerline Jusef, president of Haitian Bridge Alliance. “We demand that no Haitian be given bond (because) a majority of black immigrants are given a high amount of bond to be released. […] We demand the immediate end to a Title 42 (public health rule) that has been used to destroy lives.”
The California-based nonprofit and a host of other groups this week sent a letter to Biden and top members of his administration warning of a “political vacuum” left by Moise’s murder could exacerbate violence. The letter says armed gangs control many streets, and kidnap civilians, including schoolchildren and church pastors.
“At this time of great political and social uncertainty, it would be unconscionable and unlawful for the United States to refuse the entry of Haitians seeking protection at the U.S. border or to pursue removal proceedings, detention, deportation, or expulsion of any Haitian nationals to conditions that can only be described as dangerous,” the letter said.
In May, Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas announced a new Temporary Protected Status (TPS) designation for Haiti for 18 months. However, this only included Haitians already in the United States as of May 21, 2021, not any new arrivals, activists say.
And while the Biden administration has been releasing into the United States a large number of family units that cross the border without authorization, it has been expelling Haitian individuals and families.
“Thirty-four flights were sent (to Haiti) under President Biden, including pregnant women and babies who were not ‘deported,’ but expelled under Title 42. We had a deportation flight on the Tuesday after the 4th of July, the day before” the assassination of President Moise,” Jusef said.
Up to 10,000 Haitians ‘stuck’ on the U.S.-Mexico border
Jusef, who was in El Paso just a few days ago, said thousands of Haitian migrants are “stuck” in Mexico now, waiting for a chance for the Biden administration to let them apply or reapply for asylum.
Many of those were expelled under the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Title 42 rule to prevent the cross-border spread of COVID-19 or just never got a chance to apply.
“Haitians have been there for an average of one and a half years (and some) going back to five years, prior to (President) Trump completely destroying the asylum process,” Jusef said. “We have estimated 5,000 to 10,000 who are still in Mexico, from Tapachula (near the border with Guatemala) to Tijuana. The majority of them have been waiting a long time.”
Jusef said her organization is working with a church in El Paso and local nonprofits such as Las Americas Immigrant and Refugee Center to provide support for Haitians in Juarez. “We do see an increased number of black migrants in the (El Paso-Juarez) area. We will be there again next week to deal with that specific issue,” she said.
The group is also on the lookout for new arrivals, though it’s too soon to evaluate if the president’s assassination has had a ripple effect on migration yet.
“We don’t have reports of that yet. But there are people who have been on the journey for a very long time. They’re stuck in countries such as Panama and Nicaragua or crossing the jungle.
Other pro-Haitian organizations in the United States on Wednesday echoed the call for Biden to stop deporting Haitians and to end Title 42, which in theory would again allow international citizens to apply for asylum at the Southwest border.
“The assassination of (President Moise) is the culmination of massacres where armed groups linked to Haiti’s power structure as well as powerful political and economic forces have killed 60 people since the last week of June. That includes a human rights activist and journalists,” said Paul Christian Namphy, lead organizer of Family Action Network Movement.
In addition to however many Haitians have been expelled to Mexico under the Title 42 rule (the high number of re-incident apprehensions makes it impossible to calculate), the Biden administration has flown 2,000 migrants back to Haiti, in the middle of the violence.
“That is a larger number than the last year of the Trump administration,” Namphy said. “This has to stop. This is really a terrible injustice for people who are seeking freedom.”