How Hope, Fear and Misinformation Led Thousands of Haitians to the US Border


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

This week, the United States resumed deportation flights to Haiti under Title 42, an emergency public health measure that has enabled the government to seal the border and deport migrants during the pandemic. Immigration and customs officials repatriated about 90 Haitians, including families, on Wednesday.

The decision was sharply reprimanded by immigrant advocates and lawmakers, who said the government should provide Haitians with legal protection and the opportunity to seek asylum rather than repatriating them to their troubled homeland just a month after the earthquake.

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

But returning Haitians to their homelands is “essential to prevent situations like this from developing,” said Mark Krikorian, executive director of the Center for Immigration Studies, which advocates for curbing immigration. “If a Haitian who makes it to the US border is free from home, more people will do it. If you have lived in Brazil or Chile for years, or if one of your children was born here, you are not eligible for asylum. You were firmly resettled in another country.”

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

Near the bridge, enterprising migrants shop and shout their wares and prices. It felt like an open air market, and by mid-afternoon piles of trash lay all over the earth. As the sun grew stronger, so did the dust, which left a thin film on clothes, cell phones and bodies.

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