Since late September, an unprecedented number of migrants from Haiti have arrived at the US-Mexico border. Humanitarian crises and rampant poverty in Haiti have led to an increased number of refugees seeking shelter in the United States. This has prompted border patrol agents to take more extreme measures in order to enforce immigration laws, leading to some backlash from Hatian-Americans and immigration advocates.
The country of Haiti is currently undergoing a mix of crises that threaten the stability of the nation and the safety of its people. The recent natural disasters have caused problems for the citizens for a decade now. In early 2010, Haiti was hit by a magnitude seven earthquake, which destroyed three hundred thousand buildings and killed one hundred and fifty thousand people. This devastating event led to many Haitians fleeing the country, primarily going to South America. Many fled to Brazil, hoping to get jobs preparing for the 2014 FIFA World Cup and 2016 Summer Olympics.
However, this solution only lasted a few years until many South American countries closed their borders due to fears of COVID-19. Many countries, such as Chile and Brazil, closed their borders completely for some time, forcing Haitian migrants to instead trek northwards.
Another reason many Haitians are fleeing their home is due to recent political instability. While the president of Haiti was far from popular, his assassination led to political turmoil and democratic backsliding. His term was already marked by widespread demonstrations and protests over allegations of corruption and warmongering, and now three different people are claiming the presidency. His original Prime Minister, the new Prime Minister he appointed just hours before his death, and the leader of the Senate. This unstable executive branch means that Haitians are vulnerable to more crime and political violence than before. This also means increased emigration to other countries. The neighboring Dominican Republic has already completely shut their border to Haitians.
The Biden Administration’s response has been met with less than favorable reviews. In September, over thirty thousand migrants were either dispelled from the border or taken into custody, and later eight thousand were deported on U.S. airlines back to Haiti. The administration hopes that this will spread the word that the U.S. border is not a viable option and will discourage more migrants from attempting to make the journey. The images of the border, with patrol officers on horseback attacking immigrants, have caused controversy in the US as well. Many people have criticized the Biden Administration’s response to the disasters in Haiti and call for the border restrictions to be loosened.
Currently, the Biden administration is operating using a Trump-era immigration policy called Title 42. Title 42 is an emergency public health order that gives the president the power to expel immigrants immediately. This allows the border patrol to expel possible refugees without considering their asylum claims. Many have called for the Biden administration to stop using Title 42 to justify their actions, and instead focus on being more accepting of refugees. Others have called for the use of the Deferred Enforced Departure (DED), which would essentially allow immigrants to seek shelter in the US for a certain period of time. Bill Clinton used Deferred Enforced Departure in 1997 due to U.S. military intervention in Haiti. The President allowed around twenty thousand refugees to stay in the U.S. for a year while the situation quieted down.
While an immigration crisis at the Southern border is certainly nothing new, the combination of natural disasters, presidential assassinations, and COVID-19 has led to a perfect storm of refugees seeking shelter in the United States. Hopefully, the administration will take their needs, as well as the needs of the country, into account, and come up with a solution that provides aid and shelter for people without destabilizing the border.
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