Over 10,000 migrants, mostly Haitian, were herded and sent to a squalid camp under a bridge near the Rio Grande. Here’s what you should know.
A Troubled Past, A Treacherous Journey
Haiti has been a struggling nation for decades. Life in Haiti became especially intolerable after the assignation of the president and a major earthquake that destroyed houses, government buildings, and infrastructure.
While these problems have forced many Haitians to seek refuge elsewhere, many refugees fled the small island nation years ago in search of a better life. Many traveled to Chile for the opportunity to work at the FIFA World Cup while others simply settled in a place that seemed safe.
However, since the coronavirus pandemic spread throughout the world, Chilean officials had to make difficult decisions about the economy and future of the nation. As a result, they drafted a strict immigration law that makes it nearly impossible for noncitizens to stay.
Once it became clear that they were not welcome, many Haitians followed maps and routes on WhatsApp to get to the American border. There they crossed paths with thousands of Venezuelans, Cubans, and Nicaraguans as they crossed the Rio Grande into Texas.
However, they were stopped short by immigration enforcement officers on horseback and rounded up into groups to be sent to a makeshift camp under the Del Rio International Bridge.
The United States has also been ravaged by the pandemic and continues to grapple with a struggling economy and dwindling workforce. In the final days of his presidency, former President Donald Trump issued a sanction that would restrict immigration to the U.S. based on an obscure sanction from the 1940s.
Title 42 is a vague but effective law that essentially bars immigrants from entering the country based on medical grounds, specifically communicable diseases. To the chagrin of many immigrant rights activists, President Biden has upheld Title 42.
Now, Haitian migrants and thousands of other weary travelers are being turned away and sent back to Mexico to wait for a miracle.
A Local Matter
While the immigration system fall under the federal government’s control, border states like Texas and Arizona reserve the right to manage immigration affairs on a local level.
Texas Governor Gregg Abbott has made it clear that he intends to severely limit and even suspend immigration to the state as much as possible. He has empowered citizens to report illegal migrants to ICE agents for almost immediate deportation.
In many ways, this is an overextension of his power, but as far as most of us can see, the Biden Administration isn’t fighting many of Abbott’s decisions. In the first 100 days of his presidency, Biden rolled back many Trump-era policies in favor of building a new more fair immigration system.
However, now that tens of thousands of migrants are pleading for asylum, Biden’s vision for the future of immigration will be put to the test.
What Happens Now?
The immigrants at the Del Rio camp have either been sent back to Mexico to wait or given numbers for processing. At the time of this article, there have not been many breakthroughs for these migrants. While they do qualify for asylum, the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services is struggling with a backlog of applications that could complicate things.
The future looks bleak for many of the Haitian migrants as officials continue to squabble over how to handle the situation. Until the borders open and Title 42 is reversed, many of these families may be stuck in Mexico for the foreseeable future.