Biden administration faces ‘critical moment’ on migration | US-Mexico Border News

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Biden administration faces ‘critical moment’ on migration |  US-Mexico Border News

Washington, DC- Expulsion to Haiti, withdrawal to Mexico or detention in the United States – these were the options facing more than 14,000 mostly Haitian migrants who camped under a bridge last week in the US state of Texas, hoping to get asylum.

But while thousands have been deported from the US and those who remain face a similar fate, human rights groups say Haitian asylum seekers, many of them families with children, will continue to come seeking protection.

“This is not a deterrent or even a patch solution,” Guerline Jozef, co-founder and executive director of Haitian Bridge Alliance, an organization that assists Haitian migrants, said of US deportation policy.

Joseph said Haitians face a worsening political and economic crisis in their home countries and those who have been deported are likely to attempt to return to the US-Mexico border, or to another country on their way, in the coming weeks.

“They are destroying people’s lives, knowing that the same people will come back if they survive the journey,” Joseph told Al Jazeera.

Immigration advocates say denying Haitian migrants the right to asylum and returning them to Haiti could be a violation of international law [Mexico’s National Migration Institute/Handout via Reuters]

‘Title 42’ evictions

The US has expelled more than 6,000 migrants to Haiti so far, US Customs and Border Protection (CBP) told CBS News, while an unknown number of others remain in CBP custody, although most are being deported.

The Dutch DPA did not respond to a request for comment from Al Jazeera in time for publication.

Also the news agency Reuters reported this week that another 8,000 people, fearing deportation, have returned to Mexico, where their fate is unclear.

The asylum seekers waded through the Rio Grande River from Mexico to Texas, where they were met by… US border patrol officers on horseback, some of whom used what looked like reins to push them back to Mexico.

Immigration advocatesAs well as progressive Democratic leaders, the administration of US President Joe Biden has criticized the treatment of Haitian migrants, saying that denying them the right to asylum is a violation of international law.

The Biden administration has relied on a Trump-era policy called “Title 42” to immediately return most migrants arriving at land borders, justifying the coronavirus pandemic.

Rights groups say: they expect more from Biden, who campaigned on promises to adopt a more hospitable and humane immigration policy than his predecessor Donald Trump. US Special Envoy to Haiti resigned in protest against the evictions.

US customs and border guards try to restrain migrants as they cross the Rio Grande from Mexico on Sept. 19 [Felix Marquez/AP Photo]

“There are still Haitian migrants going through Mexico to the border right now, this won’t stop,” said Breanne Palmer, director of interim policy and advocacy at UndocuBlack Network, an organization that advocates for undocumented black migrants in the U.S. .

“This is a critical moment for the Department of Homeland Security [DHS] and President Biden to decide what kind of immigration legacy to lead,” Palmer told Al Jazeera.

On Thursday, a US appeals court ruled that the Biden administration — which has exempted unaccompanied children from Title 42 evictions — can continue to evict migrant families under the policy while a lawsuit is pending to challenge the measure.

“We are disappointed that Title 42 will remain in effect as the appeal continues, but we will continue to fight in court and urge the Biden administration to withdraw the policy,” said Lee Gelernt, an American Civil Liberties attorney. Union, one of the groups that brought the case.

“The government has said it wants to act humanely, now is the time to act,” Gelernt told Al Jazeera.

Haitian migrants crossed the Rio Grande River to the US last month in search of asylum [File: Eric Gay/AP Photo]

Simultaneous crises

The deportations to Haiti come at a time when the country is facing multiple crises. In July, President Jovenel Moise was… murdered and a month later, a powerful earthquake measuring 7.2 on the Richter scale beaten South.

Speaking to the United Nations General Assembly last week, Haitian Prime Minister Ariel Henry said inequality, poverty and conflict will remain the main drivers of migration.

“People, fathers and mothers who have children will always flee poverty and conflict,” he said. “Migration will continue as long as the planet has both affluent areas, while the majority of the world’s population lives in poverty, even extreme poverty, with no prospect of a better life.”

But many of the Haitian asylum seekers who arrived at the US-Mexico border last month had left Haiti years ago after a massive earthquake in 2010 devastated much of the island. Many moved to Chile or Brazil in search of work, while others have lived in Mexico for years waiting for an opportunity to apply for asylum in the US.

Fifty-seven deportation flights have left the US since Sept. 19 bound for the Haitian capital Port-au-Prince and the northern coastal town of Cap Haitien, where Nicole Phillips, legal director of the Haitian Bridge Alliance, said the airport does not have buses to transport deportees to the to bring city.

“We are calling for an immediate end to the deportations and evictions because Haiti cannot receive them,” Phillips told Al Jazeera. “Logistically, Haiti does not have the infrastructure to handle this amount of mass deportations.”

Mexico recently expelled 70 Haitians, including 13 children, on a flight to Port-au-Prince [Ralph Tedy Erol/Reuters]

On Friday, Bahamian and Cuban authorities said they have stopped hundreds of Haitians who were on boats trying to reach the US by sea. Officials from both countries said they would send them back to Haiti.

Meanwhile, several hundred Haitians who have returned to Mexico are staying in shelters in the northern city of Ciudad Acuna, Phillips said. She added that many others have flown or taken buses to the southern town of Tapachula on the Guatemalan border, where immigration groups say they risk detention if they leave.

Earlier this week, Mexico turned an Olympic stadium in Tapachula into an asylum processing center. But the country’s Commission for Refugee Assistance (COMAR) has been inundated with asylum applications and the process has been delayed many times.

On Wednesday, Mexico expels 70 Haitians, including 13 children, on a flight to Port-au-Prince as part of what it said was “assisted voluntary return”. More flights are expected in the coming weeks.

“We don’t want Mexico to become a migrant camp, we want the underlying problem to be addressed, that people are not forced to emigrate,” Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador said last week.

Haitian Prime Minister Ariel Henry met a US delegation on Friday [Joseph Odelyn/AP Photo]


Back in the US, Biden has stated that the border police who attacked the migrants would do so “pay” for what they did, while DHS Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas said: quick inquiry would be completed soon.

Pro-immigration groups welcomed the condemnations but said the images were a strong example of the anti-black and anti-immigrant sentiment that remains predominant between border enforcement authorities.

“Wherever black people go, there are sentiments that discredit our humanity and our ability and right to seek asylum and seek refuge,” Palmer said.

“Many black migrants face a multifaceted experience that often involves violence, discrimination and closed doors,” she told Al Jazeera. “We are in a unique position because we are very visible, but we are also made invisible.”

Meanwhile, Joseph said her organization has not been able to access the Haitian migrants who are still in CBP detention, nor have they been able to provide legal or linguistic assistance to them.

On Thursday, an appeals court ruled that the Biden government can continue to deport migrant families under Title 42 [Edgard Garrido/Reuters]

Joseph stressed that as conditions in Haiti continue to deteriorate, more people will flee in search of protection, safety and jobs, most to neighboring countries in Latin America — and the way the US treats Haitian migrants is a critical example.

“As the world watches as the United States treats little black girls and little black boys and their parents who seek safety and protection — not only destroying lives by deporting them and sending them to Haiti — they also facilitate en carte blanche give to all other countries where Haitians are asking for support,” said Joseph.

“They are literally creating a system where Haitians are not allowed to enter any space.”


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