PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti — The Haitian migrants got it right. Since they left their country, much more than a decade ago, they had built lives in Chile, Brazil and Panama. They had houses and cars. They had regular jobs as bank clerks, welders, mine supervisors, gas station attendants.
But they longed for the possibility of a better life in the United States, under a president who had protected Haitians in the United States from deportation, and many believed that entry requirements would ease. So they sold their possessions, left their jobs and took their children out of school. And they went north.
But instead of the reception they expected, they were held in the small border town of Del Rio, Texas, and deported without warning — to Haiti, a broken country many no longer recognized — in a dizzying sequence that left them feeling mistreated. and betrayed.
Some said they had never spoken to an immigration officer. Others said they had been cheated – told they were released or sent to Florida, and instead were caught on a plane to Port-au-Prince, where they landed on Sunday, some in hand and ankle cuffs after protests.
“They treated us terribly,” says Nicodeme Vyles, 45, who has lived and worked in Panama since 2003 as a welder and carpenter.
Mr Vyles and about 300 other Haitians who landed on Sunday were the first of about 14,000 migrants expected by authorities in the country over the next three weeks.
When the first three flights arrived, Haitian officials begged the United States for a “humanitarian moratorium” as their country reels from the assassination of the president in July and a powerful earthquake in August.
But the Biden administration, facing the highest number of border crossings in decades, has enforced policies to delay the arrival of migrants. The Haitian deportations are consistent with that policy, officials said this weekend.
Alejandro N. Mayorkas, the secretary of the United States Department of Homeland Security, said on Monday that while the United States has expanded protections for Haitians who arrived in the country before July 29, those arriving now are not covered.
“We are deeply concerned that Haitians following this illegal migration route are receiving false information that the border is open or that temporary protected status is available,” he said at a news conference in Del Rio, where thousands of Haitians have camped. .
“Trying to enter the United States illegally is not worth the tragedy, the money, or the effort,” he added.