Sep 20, 2021 - Politics & Policy

By the numbers: Haitian emigration

Haitians encountered at the U.S.-Mexico border
Data: CBP; Chart: Sara Wise/Axios

The number of Haitians crossing the U.S.-Mexico border had been rising even before their country's president was assassinated in July and the island was struck by an earthquake a month later.

Why it matters: A spike during the past few weeks — leaving thousands waiting in a makeshift camp under a bridge in Del Rio, Texas — has prompted a crackdown and deportations by the Biden administration.

  • Not all are coming straight from Haiti: many fled to South American countries like Brazil and Chile after another devastating 2010 earthquake.
  • Now, they've made their way north, perhaps lured by confusion about Temporary Protected Status.
  • More than 15,000 Haitians were tracked crossing from Colombia to Panama through the treacherous Darién Gap last month — significantly more than any other nationality, according to Panamanian government data. The number has risen steadily month over month.

What's happening: Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas visited the Del Rio sector on Monday. He issued a blunt warning.

  • "If you come to the United States illegally, you will be returned,” he said.
  • Mayorkas also emphasized the Temporary Protected Status designation for Haiti, announced earlier this year, applies only to those who were already in the country before July 29.

Between the lines: As of Sunday, there were more than 12,600 migrants under the bridge — most of them Haitians.

  • The administration has started up mass deportations back to Haiti, and hundreds were returned just on Sunday.
  • The government also surged 600 more border agents to Del Rio.
  • The port of entry has been closed, and trade rerouted.
  • On Friday, 2,000 migrants were moved from Del Rio to other processing sites.

What to watch: There have been reports of border agents mistreating Haitians, including lashing toward some from horseback.

  • Rep. Bennie Thompson (D-Miss.), chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee, released a statement Monday urging Mayorkas "to take immediate action to hold those responsible accountable, and ensure that all migrants are treated in accordance with the law and basic decency."
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