U.S. Resumes Deportations Of Undocumented Migrants Back To Haiti
The U.S. Department of Homeland and Security has a warning to undocumented Haitians en route to its southwestern border with Mexico — turn around. Otherwise, you will be deported back to Haiti.
After a six-year moratorium on deportations to the earthquake-scarred country, the Obama administration is resuming them, citing “improved conditions in Haiti” since the devastatingJan. 12, 2010, earthquake and “a significant increase in Haitians arriving at the Southwest border in San Diego, Calif.”
“The United States has recently witnessed a sharp increase in the number of Haitian nationals taking dangerous smuggling routes to apply for admission to our country in the San Diego, Calif., area without advance authorization,” said an official with DHS, which announced the policy shift Thursday.
In fiscal year 2015, the U.S. Customs and Border Patrol only apprehended 339 Haitians at the San Ysidro Port of Entry, the world’s busiest border crossing, officials said. But that number jumped sharply from Oct. 1, 2015, to Sept. 4, with officials processing more than 5,000 Haitians at the California entry point, overwhelming the facility, which is undergoing construction.
“Effective immediately, enforcement decisions with respect to Haitian nationals should be consistent with the practice regarding other nationalities,” Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson said.
At the top of the deportation list are those apprehended at the U.S. borders or ports of entry that do not possess a credible fear of persecution or torture; convicted felons and those convicted of significant or multiple misdemeanors; and an estimated 2,000 Haitians with a final order of deportation already issued by a U.S. immigration judge.
Haitian nationals currently covered by Temporary Protected Status, an immigration benefit granted to tens of thousands a day after the earthquake, are not affected by the policy change. But the policy change will affect as many as 40,000 Haitiansin transit through other Central and South American nations from Brazil to the U.S.-Mexico border.
The announcement comes less than three weeks before Haiti’s Oct. 9 re-do of its controversial first-round elections. The possibility of having thousands of Haitians repatriated on the eve of the vote has raised concerns of its impact on elections, and also on Haiti’s unstable economic and political environment.
Warned of the policy shift ahead of Thursday’s announcement, Haitian government officials said that while they are prepared to receive those sent back, they will not accept them under all conditions.
You can read more about this story at our news partner, the Miami Herald.