Traditionally, Haitians attempting to enter America illegally have tried coming to South Florida by boat, which is a treacherous journey, and they are often caught by the Coast Guard and return back to Haiti. Now they have discovered a new route to the U.S. – and they’re coming in droves.
The San Diego Union-Tribune reported Thursday that a group of about 200 Haitians had arrived at the San Ysidro Port of Entry pedestrian entrance, where they remain camped out, waiting to be admitted. The group also included Mexicans and men who said they were from Congo.
Many of the Haitians had gone to Brazil after the earthquakes of 2010, but now that country is enduring hard times, they have headed north. Cederic, originally from Port-auPrince, said he had come here from Sao Paulo “to look for a better life, like a lot of people.”
Another man told in broken Portuguese and Creole that he had left Haiti in 2013 to work in Brazil. He also said he was not seeking political asylum, but came to America searching for a better life.
While asylum seekers routinely present themselves to authorities at U.S. ports of entry, the reasons for the recent spike were not clear. A statement issued Thursday by the agency said, “recently, we have seen an uptick in the number of Haitians arriving at San Ysidro with no status in the United States.”
The head of the Tijuana office of Mexico’s National Migration Institute, Rodulfo Figueroa, said that in some cases, the migrants claim to be from non-European countries in Asia and Africa with whom Mexico has no diplomatic relations, and thus cannot be deported. In these cases, the migrants are typically released from immigration custody, and given a set period of time, often about 20 days, to leave the country or else legalize their status by launching a political asylum application or other means.
Figueroa said the situation is temporary, and the result of CBP receiving more asylum requests than it has the capacity to process in a short time period. In the meantime, migrant shelters, the city government and the federal migrant protection unit, Grupo Beta, have offered assistance to the group.
After an initial processing by CBP staff, the ICE officers — from the agency’s Enforcement Removal and Operations division — “are responsible for determining whether they will remain detained or released while their immigration cases undergo further review by the immigration courts,” said ICE spokeswoman Lauren Mack.
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