Conflict Alerts # 443, 30 September 2021
In the news
On 17 September, approximately 13,000 Haitians gathered near the Del Rio bridge in Texas connecting to Mexico.
On 21 September, US border officials were heavily criticized for their mistreatment of migrants. They rode on horseback using whips to prevent the migrants from entering the border. President Joe Biden called the treatment an "embarrassment" and ensured "consequences." Calling it "strapping," he said: "Of course, I take responsibility. I'm president." Referring to the border agents, he said: "I promise you those people will pay," adding, "It's simply not who we are."
On 22 September, Special Envoy to Haiti, Ambassador Daniel Foote resigned in protest over the deportation of the migrants stating it as "inhumane and counterproductive."
On 23 September, US officials noted that nearly 4000 migrants had not moved; others already returned to Mexico and 3200 waiting for their migration process in custody. Another 19,000 migrants have begun moving from Columbian forests waiting for the Panama border crossing. About 1400 of the migrants have been returned to Haiti.
Issues at large
First, the Haiti migration to the US. Haitians have regularly been migrating to the US. The earthquake of 2010 left many Haitians in search for a better life, many left to countries like Brazil and Chile. An unstable economy and strict immigration rules in these areas left the migrants helpless, with many crossing into US borders. Constant setbacks in Haiti, triggered by the pandemic and the political instability with the assassination of President Jovenel Moise, has only led to more despair.
Second, the response from the US government. The Title 42 policy is set to prevent the spread of COVID-19 in the facilities where the migrants are currently being held. With reference to the same US has been sending the migrants back to Haiti. Moreover, US agents patrolling the border with migrants encamped under the Del bridge are facing heavy criticisms for their inhumane handling of the situation. In an attempt to seemingly defend the actions of the border patrol, Mayorkas said: "I'm intensely and immensely proud of the men and women of the US Customs and Border Protection. In fact, in Del Rio, Texas, I saw them act heroically." However, Biden has condemned the border treatment and has vouched for consequences. The US is still continuing its efforts to send Haitians back.
First, Haiti's arduous decade. While Haiti has been a victim to natural calamities and socio-economic-political unrest, the sitting government has not accounted for much effort to help its own population. Ariel Henry supported the American evacuation of the migrants and seemed to sympathize with the US.
Second, American immigration policy debate. Within the IR perspective, migration is a debatable right. Last year, only 22 per cent of Haitians won a formal approval as compared to 98 per cent of Venezuelans and 83 per cent of Salvadorans. The Haitian number for this year remains at 31 per cent. Biden administration has the responsibility to distinguish itself from the Trump administration and indulge in the systematic rebuilding of the asylum facilities. More importantly, he must address the main cause of the irregular migrations. Given the migration, the US is also suffering consequences of roadblocks, airport chaos, addressing border agent harassment and has resorted to using the Trump era policy to return the Haitians. With the current Covid-19 situation in the US and increased migration from other countries from the south, it is hard to hold the US accountable to accommodate every migrant. The increased human rights issues against the larger backdrops of national sovereignty of the US and a global pandemic help push for a larger debate on migration as a right amidst such extraordinary circumstances.