US plan to step up deportations has not dampened the resolve of many Haitian migrants to seek a better life.
Haitian migrants say they will not be deterred by the United States’ plans to expel them as thousands remain encamped on the Texas border after crossing from Mexico.
Told of the US intention to increase the capacity of removal flights, several said they intended to remain and seek asylum, citing the recent devastating earthquake in Haiti and the turmoil that followed the assassination of President Jovenel Moïse as reasons why they are unable to make a return to their home country.
“In Haiti, there is no security,” Fabricio Jean, a 38-year-old Haitian who arrived with his wife and two daughters, told The Associated Press. “The country is in a political crisis.”
Migrants have camped beneath the Del Rio International Bridge, which carries traffic across the Rio Grande river into Mexico.
The Department of Homeland Security said on Saturday it moved about 2,000 people to other locations for processing. It also said it would have 400 officers in the area by Monday morning and would send more if necessary.
Junior Jean, a 32-year-old man from Haiti, said he lived on the streets in Chile the past four years, resigned to searching for food in rubbish cans.
“We are all looking for a better life,” he said.
Tens of thousands are also stuck in the southern Mexican city of Tapachula, waiting for documents that would allow them to continue.
Judith Joseph fled to Chile from Haiti in 2017 after one of her three children was murdered.
Despite suffering from ailments including diabetes and difficulty walking, the 43-year-old set off on July 10 and arrived in Tapachula nearly two months later with her other two children, Samuel and Cristelle.
Her son, 11-year-old Samuel, has few memories of life back at home. “There were mice in the kitchen at night. During the day there were always Haitian soldiers shooting outside the house,” he told AFP news agency.
As the family waits for refugee status to continue their journey into the US, Samuel said he wishes they had never set off. “I didn’t want to leave. I wanted to stay in Chile.”
Haitians have been migrating to the US in large numbers for several years, many having left their Caribbean nation after a devastating 2010 earthquake. They make dangerous treks by foot, bus and car, including through the infamous Darien Gap, a jungle controlled by armed gangs and drug traffickers connecting Colombia to Panama.
The United States says it will step up the number of “removal flights” to expel migrants encamped at the Texas border – estimated at close to 14,000.
A pandemic-related order to immediately expel migrants without giving them the opportunity to seek asylum that was introduced in March 2020 remains in effect, but unaccompanied children and many families have been exempt.
During his first month in office, President Joe Biden chose to exempt children travelling alone on humanitarian grounds.
Some critics said Biden’s decision in late July – after Moise’s assassination – to allow Haitians without US visas at the time to remain in the country offered an incentive for others to come.
In August, US authorities stopped migrants nearly 209,000 times at the border, which was close to a 20-year high.
Biden has promised a more humane approach to immigration as compared with his predecessor, Donald Trump, but the veteran Democrat has been confronted with a growing tide of migrants crossing the border since he took office in January.