The Obama administration responding to an extraordinary wave of Haitian migrants seeking to enter the United States is preparing to resume routine removals of undocumented Haitian immigrants more than six years after suspending the deportations following the devastating January 2010 earthquake.
The announcement will likely have an immediate impact on the southern California border with Mexico where hundreds of Haitian and other Caribbean immigrants without visas have been waiting to enter through ports of entry like in Tijuana.
The U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement stopped deportations to Haiti following the January 12, 2010, earthquake, which was centered in the capital of Port-au-Prince. Deportations resumed on a limited basis in April 2011, primarily of criminals or those considered a security threat. The new policy means that anyone with a final deportation order is now subject to deportation but deportations could be difficult if Haiti remains reluctant to issue documents needed to take back its residents.
“Haiti has not always issued travel documents as quickly as we would like,” one official said. “Having said that, we are hopeful that they will live up to their international obligations and issue travel documents for people that have received the full measure of due process.”
There are more than 5,000 Haitian immigrants have entered the United States without visas this fiscal year through Oct. 1, said Department of Homeland Security officials, up from 339 in fiscal year 2015.
The policy change will affect as many as 40,000 Haitians in transit through other Central and South American nations from Brazil to the U.S.-Mexico border but under the new DHS policy, those who express a fear of returning to Haiti would be screened by a U.S. asylum officer who will determine if their case moves forward to immigration court.
Good news for TPS holders, the new deportation policy will not change the Temporary Protected Status conferred by the U.S. government that allows Haitians in the program to remain in the United States through July 22, 2017.
U.S. immigration authorities along the Mexico-California border have struggled to find enough resources to interview and temporarily detain Haitian migrants, most of whom are traveling from Brazil. Many Haitians who found work in Brazil through a visa program offered after the earthquake are starting to leave because of Brazil’s economic downturn and the shrinking work opportunities caused by the end of the summer Olympics.
San Diego Union-Tribune Reports,
DHS officials speaking on background on Wednesday confirmed the new policy and said that it is effective as of today. Haitians who present themselves at the U.S. border can expect to be detained and processed under a provision of U.S. immigration law known as “expedited removal” that allows for their deportations without an appearance before an immigration judge—with exceptions made for those who express fear of returning to their home country.
“We will be treating inadmissible Haitians as we do nationals of other countries,” one said. Since 2014, U.S. deportation policy has placed priority on convicted felons, those with “significant or multiple misdemeanors” and those stopped without entry documents near the border or at ports of entry while trying to enter the United States.
“We believe that resumption of regular removal operations is warranted at this time given the improved country conditions since the earthquake,” an official said. According to the official, the resumption is also “in response to the significant increase of Haitians we’ve seen attempting to enter the United States at the southwest border and in particular at the San Ysidro Port of Entry.”