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Thousands of mostly Haitian migrants gathered at the border town of Del Rio, Texas in September hoping to gain asylum in the United States. While the migrants have been removed and the encampment cleared, the crisis is far from over. Yamiche Alcindor gets more on the issue with Guerline Jozef, president of the Haitian Bridge Alliance.
Thousands of Haitian migrants gathered at the border town of Del Rio, Texas, last month hoping to gain asylum. While the migrants have been removed and the encampment cleared, the crisis is far from over.
Yamiche Alcindor has our report.
For the first time since he resigned as special envoy for Haiti last month, Daniel Foote spoke publicly, briefing the House Foreign Affairs Committee.
Foote, who left his position amid mass deportations of Haitian migrants on the Southern border, told lawmakers it is wrong to send Haitians back to the struggling island nation.
Daniel Foote, Former U.S. Special Envoy to Haiti: Deportation in the short term is not going to make Haiti more stable. In fact, it's going to make it worse. Nobody asked me about the deportations. I found out about it on the news, just like the rest of us.
In mid-September, more than 14,000 Haitians, many from South America, came to the U.S. Southern border seeking asylum. Many ended up in squalid conditions, camping under a bridge in Del Rio, Texas.
As many as 12,000 Haitians were released into the United States to await immigration proceedings. But thousands of others were sent back to Haiti. Meanwhile, beyond COVID-19, the island nation is still reeling from a major earthquake in August. And it remains in political crisis after President Jovenel Moise was assassinated in July.
I am joined now by Guerline Jozef. She is president of the Haitian Bridge Alliance, which advocates for Haitian immigrants. She recently visited Del Rio, Texas, and saw the migrant crisis firsthand.
Thank you so much, Guerline, for being here.
Today, a senior administration official said as many as 20,000 Haitians are on their way to the United States making their way through South America. Talk about what conditions lead Haitians to flee Haiti and try to come to the United States.
Guerline Jozef, President, Haitian Bridge Alliance:
Thank you so much for having me, Yamiche.
The reality is, the conditions in Haiti are unstable, and we need to look at root causes of migration of Haitians, who are being forced to leave their homes, their homeland, all they know, to make a dangerous journey to the United States.
As we all know, there have been years of political turmoil, the recent assassination of the president, extreme kidnapping. On top of it, we had an earthquake, followed by a storm, really, really making it a very unstable space for people to survive.
And, in addition to that, we have seen people who have left Haiti in 2010 also making their way to the U.S.-Mexico border. And we people who have been in Mexico for up to five years waiting for a chance to get protection, a chance to ask for asylum.
And you have been working with migrants so closely. Today, we heard from the former special envoy for Haiti, Daniel Foote.
He resigned amid deportations. He called them inhumane and counterproductive. Today, he said that sending Haitians back to Haiti is harmful and dangerous to the country and to Haitian migrants. What do you make of his assessment?
Absolutely. He's 100 percent correct.
And it's why we have been asking for them to stop deportation, because we see deportation as a form of violence upon Haiti and the Haitian people, as we see Haiti unable to recover from all this turmoil. Yet, today, the United States have decided, instead of providing protection to Haitians, they are deporting.
And I want to highlight that they are deporting pregnant women. Little children, little Black boys, little Black girls in need of protection are being deported to Haiti right now. It is, as Ambassador Foote mentioned, unacceptable, inhumane and a complete disregard for Haitian lives.
And you just called deportations violence against Haitian migrants.
I wonder, what do you want to see changed as it relates to the Haitian policy and the Biden administration? What do you want the president, President Biden, to do differently as it relates to Haiti?
We want them to make sure that policies that are impacting people in Haiti and the Haitian migrants, to be providing humanitarian care for them.
We are asking President Biden to keep his promises to the Haitian community and to be able to provide protection for those people who have come to our shores. As a Haitian national and an American citizen, a Haitian-American woman, descendant of slaves, enslaved people, it is unacceptable for the United States to continue the same policies that continues to dehumanize Haitians as a people and Haiti as a country.
The Haitian government, who have agreed to receive those people knowing they do not have the capacity, they do not have the infrastructure to receive them, that's internal violence.
So, we are dealing with both internal violence from Haitian government and (AUDIO GAP) violence from the hands of the U.S. government.
And what is life like for Haitians who have been deported back to Haiti, as well as those who are being forced to remain in Mexico?
Yamiche, I spoke with people who were deported.
I cannot tell you how painful it is. Suicide is rampant among people who have been deported. And many of them who are able to survive are looking for a way to escape.
Well, thank you so much, Guerline Jozef. I really appreciate you joining the program tonight.
Thank you for having me.
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Yamiche Alcindor is the White House correspondent for the PBS NewsHour; the moderator of Washington Week, the weekly public affairs show on PBS; and a political contributor for NBC News and MSNBC. She often tells stories about the intersection of race and politics as well as fatal police encounters. She is currently covering the administration of President Joe Biden and the impact of the coronavirus pandemic.
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