Thousands of Haitian migrants and asylum-seekers have been deported to Haiti since September through Title 42, but those who have remained are now subject to being returned to Mexico through President Joe Biden’s recent expansion of the controversial “Remain in Mexico” policy. Migrant Protection Protocols (MPP), as it is officially known, outlines procedures for the U.S. government to return certain asylum-seekers back to Mexico to wait through the duration of their cases pending in immigration court. The protocols originally only applied to asylum-seekers from Spanish-speaking countries and Brazil, but when a federal court ruled the program reinstated in August, Biden expanded it to include all asylum-seekers from the Western hemisphere, namely, Haitians.
Roughly 10,400 people have been deported to Haiti since September. For Haitian asylum-seekers who have remained in the U.S. in spite of the mass deportations, the expansion is an additional barrier to seeking refuge from their homes that have been repeatedly ravaged by natural disasters and political turmoil.
The Department of Homeland Security’s civil rights office warned deportations to Haiti would be potential human rights violations given the violence and political instability the country is facing after the devastating 7.2 magnitude earthquake in August and the assassination of President Jovenel Moïse in July. According to DHS Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas, the U.S. allowed about 12,400 migrants to enter the country in September, when about 30,000 migrants, many of whom were Haitian, gathered at the U.S. border town of Del Rio, Texas. The rest were either deported back to Haiti or retreated to Mexico. Now, those migrants who have remained are subject to removal to Mexico pending their asylum hearings.
“We’ve seen over the past few months that the Biden administration has repeatedly taken actions aimed at deterring Haitians from trying to seek protection in the U.S.,” says Kennji Kizuka, associate director of research and analysis for refugee protection at Human Rights First. “It’s not surprising, but extremely disappointing to see the administration once again targeting asylum-seekers from Haiti with these harsh enforcement policies that are meant to frighten people away from exercising their right to asylum.”
While no Haitians have been returned to Mexico as part of MPP yet—and DHS did not respond to inquiries from Prism about when they can expect to begin expulsions—the expansion is a blow to the Haitian migrant community that already faces limited options and pathways to citizenship. Mayorkas extended Temporary Protected Status for Haitians for 18 months in May, but the thousands of migrants who entered in September are not even eligible to apply, since they must have been living in the U.S. as of May 21, 2021. Nor are Haitian migrants eligible for Humanitarian Parole.
“We need this administration to stop deporting Haitian people,” says Santcha Etienne, the Miami organizer for Black Alliance for Just Immigration. “They are using Title 42 to deport Haitian people, which is just pure racism. Human beings need to be treated with respect and dignity and that’s not what they are doing.”
On the eve of Assistant Secretary of State for Western Hemisphere Affairs Brian Nichols’ meeting with international partners to discuss ways to support Haitian people, the Family Action Network Movement (FANM) organized a rally in the Little Haiti neighborhood of Miami, Florida, home to the largest Haitian immigrant resettlement population in the U.S. Organizers and supporters called for Humanitarian Parole and more permanent options for migrants who have arrived since September.
“Our immigrants, our refugees are waiting impatiently, our country is facing bad conditions, and they’re here to seek a better life,” says Louikencia Jean Doriscan, a community organizer with FANM. “They have gone through so many countries and to finally get to the Texas-Mexico border and to be deported is not fair. We are here to send a message to the Biden administration and lawmakers to sign policy in favor of Haitian refugees.”
A 27-year-old Haitian asylum-seeker, who is currently undocumented and requested to remain anonymous, joined the rally to advocate for Humanitarian Parole and work permits for his community. He arrived in Arizona in late September after traveling through almost all the Latin American countries for four months with his pregnant wife. In the middle of their journey while in Colombia, his wife gave birth to twins. Upon arriving in Arizona, he and his wife and children flew to Miami where he has family. But, since he is in an immigratory limbo, he cannot work, making it difficult to provide for his growing family.
“I’m scared. I’m not legal here, and they can deport me at any moment,” he says. “Right now the conditions are bad in my country. I have my two babies here and my wife. I just want to provide for us, make a future here, and move forward with our lives.”
Paul Namphy, lead organizer of FANM, detailed that many Haitian migrants who have arrived since the September crunch have not even been given an Alien Registration Number, a critical piece of information to request immigration benefits. Namphy calls this a “breach of process” that has immense consequences for the refugees who are trying to survive.
“It makes their survival much more precarious,” says Namphy. “This is a call to dignity. This is a call to the need for our basic rights to be respected.”