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US toughens stance on Haitians seeking entry from Brazil

Published:Friday | September 23, 2016 | 12:00 AM


The United States Department of Homeland Security said yesterday that it was widening efforts to deport Haitians, a response to thousands of immigrants from the Caribbean nation who have overwhelmed California border crossings with Mexico in recent months.

The move lifts special protections that shielded Haitians from deportation after their nation's 2010 earthquake. Since 2011, US authorities have avoided deporting Haitians unless they have been convicted of serious crimes or pose a national security threat. Now they will be treated like people from other countries.

Secretary Jeh Johnson said the new posture does not apply to Haitians who got temporary status to live and work in the US after the earthquake and have remained in the country since January 2011.

The change may dramatically affect Haitians who have been showing up at US border crossings in California, claiming that they lived in Brazil for several years, left for economic reasons, and travelled through Central America and Mexico. Homeland Security officials say about 5,000 Haitians have been stopped at San Diego's San Ysidro port of entry since October, compared to only 339 for the 2015 fiscal year. Large numbers have also turned themselves in to US inspectors in Calexico, California, 120 miles east of San Diego.

The influx is so heavy that inspectors at San Ysidro, the nation's busiest border crossing, are turning back Haitians with appointments to come at a later date, leaving hundreds waiting in Tijuana, Mexico. Many stay at one of the Mexican border city's five migrant shelters that volunteered in May to help.




The Reverend Pat Murphy, director of Casa del Migrante in Tijuana, said Haitians arriving at the San Diego crossing on Wednesday would not get an appointment until October 12. His shelter now houses 1,000 people a month, up from 600 before the Haitians began arriving. About half who stay there are Haitians.

"We've opened the doors and sometimes we've opened the floors so people can have a place to sleep," Murphy said at a news conference Wednesday at San Diego's Christ United Methodist Church, which has provided food, clothing and temporary shelter over the last few months to about 3,000 Haitians after they arrived in the US.

Murphy said 90 per cent of the people who have come to his shelter in the last six weeks are Haitians who moved to Brazil after the 2010 earthquake.