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Amid political instability and violence in Haiti, human rights activists are demanding the Biden administration do more to protect Haitian migrants, especially those at the U.S.-Mexico border. NewsHour Weekend’s Ivette Feliciano spoke with Guerline Jozef, founder and executive director of the non-profit, Haitian Bridge Alliance, about what she calls the lesser known Haitian immigrant crisis.
Gunfire disrupted the funeral of slain Haitian president Jovenel Moise yesterday, again highlighting political tensions and violence in the country.
For Haitians in the U.S. And those waiting to enter at the southern border, the violence in Haiti is prompting calls to stop deportations of those who do not have temporary protected status. That status was granted and extended as a result of the catastrophic 2010 earthquake.
NewsHour Weekend's Ivette Feliciano spoke with Guerline Jozef, co-founder and executive director of the Haitian Bridge Alliance.
Earlier this month, on the heels of the assassination of Haiti's president, you led more than 130 organizations and sending a joint letter to the Biden administration asking for protection for Haitians and demanding a halt to detentions and deportations of Haitians seeking asylum. Why is that necessary, in your view?
Since President Biden took office, 35 deportation and expulsion flights have been sent to Haiti in the middle of all the chaos. So what we saw happening specifically for Black migrants is that they will be detained immediately and then be deported. And that creates this extreme pain when you are sending people who are fleeing from political turmoil, fleeing from violence and then you deport them without due process.
Pregnant women, babies as young as just a couple of weeks old. And the majority of those people also, Ivette, have been at the U.S.-Mexico border for a very long time, since2016 under President Obama. That is why we are urging the Biden administration to immediately end all deportations to Haiti and release immediately release all asylum seekers who have been detained in immigration prison and allow them to proceed with their cases.
We know that the Biden administration extended temporary protected status for Haitians in May. What does that mean in real terms for Haitians seeking asylum today?
People will be eligible to apply for TPS once the register notice is published. And we are looking at about 150,000 people. But the problem is that only applies for people who are already in the country as of May 2021. So they will be able to get a job, provide for their families, provide for their loved ones as they continue the process, their immigration process here in the United States. So that is why, in view of the current political turmoil in Haiti it is imperative that we make sure that people who are currently at the U.S.-Mexico border get protection as well, because right now they are not eligible for TPS.
And as you mentioned, there are thousands of Haitians at the US Mexico border right now seeking asylum. Why don't we hear about those migrants more when we talk about the so-called migrant crisis at the southern border?
Ivette, migrants from Haiti and other Black migrants from Jamaica, Sierra Leone, Mauritania, Cameroon have been at the U.S.-Mexico border since 2015. But the reality is the stories, the narratives are unheard of. And that is why the Haitian Bridge Alliance continues to push for highlighting the narrative of Black migrants at the U.S.-Mexico border. So that is why the Haitian Bridge Alliance started just as a response to the need of the people at the U.S.- Mexico border.
So people can understand that immigration is a Black issue, immigration is a racial justice issue, and making sure that those people who have been stuck at the U.S.-Mexico border who are not from Central America, who might be from the Caribbean and Africa, and other countries, their stories are not lost in the narrative, in the big picture.
We started the first Black immigrants bail fund because one thing people might not know, when people get into immigration detention centers, most of the time they have to pay in order for them to get released. They would be charged anywhere between $20,000 – $50,000 in order for them to be released. Now, keep in mind, somebody who just escaped extreme violence, made a journey that they almost died on the way. The first thing that we do as a country is imprison them and charge them $50,000. We are focusing on Black immigrants because their stories are unheard, their narratives are forgotten, and their realities erased.
Guerline Jozef, founder and executive director of the Haitian Bridge Alliance, thank you so much for joining us.
Thank you so much for having us, Ivette.
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Ivette Feliciano shoots, produces and reports on camera for PBS NewsHour Weekend. Before starting with NewsHour in 2013, she worked as a one-person-band correspondent for the News 12 Networks, where she won a New York Press Club Award for her coverage of Super Storm Sandy, which ravaged the East Coast in 2012. Prior to that, Ivette was the Associate Producer of Latin American news for Worldfocus, a nationally televised, daily international news show seen on Public Television. While at Worldfocus, Ivette served as the show’s Field Producer and Reporter for Latin America, covering special reports on the Mexican drug war as well as a 5-part series out of Bolivia, which included an interview with President Evo Morales. In 2010, she co-produced a documentary series on New York’s baseball history that aired on Channel Thirteen. Ivette holds a Master’s degree from the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism, where she specialized in broadcast journalism.
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