• Tue. Oct 26th, 2021

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How Hope, Fear and Misinformation Led Thousands of Haitians to the U.S. Border

The United States is home to about one million Haitians, with the largest numbers concentrated in Miami, Boston and New York. But Haitian communities have blossomed in Maryland, Ohio, North Carolina and California.

This week, the United States resumed deportation flights to Haiti under Title 42, an emergency public health order that has empowered the government to seal the border and turn away migrants during the pandemic. Immigration and Customs Enforcement repatriated about 90 Haitians, including families, on Wednesday.

The move drew sharp rebuke from immigrant advocates and lawmakers who said the administration should be offering Haitians legal protection and the opportunity to apply for asylum rather than repatriating them to their troubled home country just a month after the earthquake.

“It is cruel and wrong to return anyone to Haiti now,” said Steve Forester, immigration policy coordinator at the Institute for Justice and Democracy in Haiti.

But returning Haitians to their home country is “essential to prevent these kinds of situations from developing,” said Mark Krikorian, executive director at the Center for Immigration Studies, which favors curbing immigration. “If any Haitian who makes it to the U.S. border is home free, then more people are going to do it. If you lived in Brazil or Chile for years, one of your kids was born here, you are ineligible for asylum. You were firmly resettled in another country.”

On Friday, at the spillway north of the Del Rio International Bridge, a two-lane thoroughfare that connects the small bicultural city with Mexico, the migrants in the growing crowd became restless as they waited to be processed by border agents. They walked about the camp, which was filling up with hundreds of new arrivals on Friday, and crossed the Rio Grande into Ciudad Acuña, where they bought as much hot food and cold drinks as they could carry.

Near the bridge, enterprising migrants set up shop, shouting out their wares and prices. It felt like an open-air market, and by midafternoon, the piles of trash were strewn about the dirt ground. As the sun intensified, so did the dust, which left a thin layer on clothes, cellphones and bodies.