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Haitian Migrants In Texas, Sanctuary Cities Court Ruling, And Booster Shot Questions

A U.S. Border Patrol agent on horseback tries to stop a Haitian migrant from entering an encampment on the banks of the Rio Grande near the Acuña Del Rio International Bridge in Del Rio, Texas.
A U.S. Border Patrol agent on horseback tries to stop a Haitian migrant from entering an encampment on the banks of the Rio Grande near the Acuña Del Rio International Bridge in Del Rio, Texas.

South Florida's Haitian diaspora and lawmakers react to treatment of Haitian migrants in a Texas border town. On Friday's program we also hear about a federal judge's recent ruling in Miami, that strikes down parts of a law that ban 'sanctuary cities' in Florida. Plus, a doctor from the University of Miami answers questions about the latest COVID-19 vaccine news.

Powerful images from Del Rio, Texas came to light this week, showing U.S. border patrol agents on horseback rounding up thousands of Haitian migrants trying to cross the U.S. southern border.

The sudden influx of Haitians trying to get into the United States partially comes from confusion about President Biden's federal policies.

Many of the Haitians trying to cross the border now have been living in Latin America, in Brazil and Chile, after the country's devastating earthquake and political turmoil.

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On the South Florida Roundup, WLRN spoke with State Rep. Marie Woodson, D-Hollywood. Alex Daugherty, Washington, D.C. reporter for the Miami Herald, also joined the conversation.

Together, they discussed the reaction of the Haitian diaspora in South Florida to the week's migration news as well as the different responses and actions taken in the nation's capital.

Also on the program, we spoke with Miami Herald state government reporter Ana Ceballos about a recent ruling on Florida's 'sanctuary cities' ban. And University of Miami Dr. Olveen Carrasquillo answered questions around COVID-19 booster and flu shots.

Immigration Advocates Criticize Treatment Of Haitian Migrants At The Souther Border

Thursday, the Biden administration announced it will no longer use horses at the Texas border crossing.

"I was born and raised in Haiti and came here at the age of 21. I feel an obligation to stand up with my Haitian brothers and sisters at this time, in light of what's going on," Rep. Woodson said.

Her district covers parts of Hollywood, Miramar, Pembroke Pines and West Park in Broward County.

She called directly on President Joe Biden to end Title 42, a COVID-era policy that originated under the Trump administration.

"I want them to stop the deportation, first of all," she said. "I want them to investigate what went on, to stop the deportations, to meet with the National Haitian American Elected Officials ... I want [Biden] to continue to be a friend and to do what's right by the people at the site. As you know, Haiti is going through a lot of crisis. Haiti cannot even take care of its own right now. And we don't need any more Haitians to be deported."

Daugherty discussed how lawmakers and federal officials' messaging in Washington, D.C. conflict with their actions this week.

"The more complicated questions ... which is what are we going to do with Haitians that are at the border? Should they be deported? Should they not be deported? Should they be given the right to an asylum claim? Those are questions that the administration doesn't really want to deal with," Daugherty said.

"The response has been, and continues to be, an actual increase in deportations. There's been more deportation flights this week from the United States to Haiti than there has been at any point during the Biden administration," he said.

Much Of Sanctuary Cities Law Struck Down

This week, a major legislative priority for Gov. Ron DeSantis lost in federal court.

On Tuesday, U.S. District Judge Beth Bloom blocked Florida from enforcing parts of a 2019 law that bans so-called 'sanctuary cities' for undocumented immigrants. That was a priority for DeSantis when he ran for governor in 2018 — even though no sanctuary cities existed in the state.

The ruling came out of a lawsuit from the city of South Miami. The judge weighed evidence and testimony that focused on how the law was drafted and advanced by the Florida Legislature. The judge ruled there was "discriminatory" intent.

"It blocked really key portions that prevented local entities and law enforcement agencies from adopting sanctuary cities policies or any sanctuary policy, which meant pretty much any cooperation with federal immigration agents," said Ana Ceballos, with the Miami Herald.

Ceballos pointed out that the Governor has vowed to win this case on appeal, so the fight over the law in court is not over.

However the entire law was not struck down, so parts remain. But Ceballos said the ruling effectively makes the law not enforceable.

"There were some portions that were left open, for example, just specifics about how immigration detainers would need to be addressed or how the governor's office could be responding to any complaints related to any violations of this specific law," she said. "But because the main part of this law was indeed blocked, it kind of just, you know, crumbles around it."

COVID-19 Booster Vaccine Questions

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration stated this week that it would grant emergency use authorization for a booster dose of the Pfizer-BioNtech COVID-19 vaccine in people 65 and older, people with high risk of severe disease and people whose jobs put them at risk of high exposure to the virus.

That starts at six months after completing the two-dose series of shots. Plus, it's now officially flu shot season.

Dr. Carrasquillo said even healthy people can benefit from a COVID-19 booster shot.

"Clearly, the booster is most important for the elderly and for people with underlying conditions," he said. "Ultimately, I would say everyone will need to get the booster. But I mean ... there's no need for rationing."

He pointed out that with the delta variant being more contagious he wants to see vaccination rates among adults reach between 85 and 90% before considering a future without masking and social distancing.

"When do we stop masks? When does everybody get vaccinated? That's what I tell everybody," he said.

Carrasquillo also reiterated that current guidance advises people can get a flu shot and a COVID-19 booster shot (if eligible) at the same time.

"There's been some questions because initially, you know, we're trying to space out other vaccines at two weeks, but now we have a lot of data. And so it's safe to get them both at the same time. It's not an 'either or,' it's you should get them both and you should do it at the same time," Carrasquillo said.

This week, Pfizer announced that its vaccine is safe and effective against COVID-19 in children ages 5-11.

They expect to release results of how the vaccine performs in children under 5 years old later this year.

Caitie Switalski Muñoz covers news and stories concerning quality of life in Broward County and its municipalities for WLRN News. Her award-winning coverage focuses on: affordable housing, city and county governments, homelessness issues, transportation and slice of life here in South Florida.