Migrant Border Crisis

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NHAEON Officials Tour Del Rio, Texas

On Thursday, September 16, 2021, Chairman of the National Haitian American Elected Officials Network (NHAEON) and City of North Miami Councilman Alix Desulme, E.d.D received an urgent call from the Executive Director of the Haitian Bridge Alliance (“the Bridge”), Guerline Jozef, concerning a crisis at the southern border of Texas. It was reported that nearly 6,000 Haitian migrants had arrived and were seeking refuge under the Del Rio Bridge. The number of migrants doubled to 12,000 the following day.

With determined urgency, Chairman Desulme mobilized a team of elected officials from NHAEON. He decided to travel to Del Rio, Texas to meet with Ms. Guerline Jozef on Saturday, September 18, 2021. Before leaving for Del Rio, the Chairman was contacted by Congresswoman Frederica S. Wilson who immediately organized a briefing for Chairman Desulme and several members of NHAEON with Secretary of Homeland Security, Alejandro Mayorkas. Secretary Mayorkas briefed the team on the current state of the crisis. The Secretary then confirmed that 13,000 Haitian migrants had been camped at the bridge. These migrants came from several countries, including but not limited to, Chile, Brazil, Mexico, Panama, and other places in South America. 

It was clear to many of us on the conference call that DHS had planned to expel most of the Black immigrants seeking refuge underneath the bridge. This was a clear violation of the U.S.’s own policy to allow any immigrant seeking asylum an opportunity to present their case in front of an immigration judge (Due Process). 

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NHAEON officials asses the situation

Another Problem

NHAEON officials getting a briefing before touring Del Rio, Texas area

After arriving in Del Rio, Chairman Desulme realized that ICE was releasing small numbers of migrants. The few who were allowed to stay, pending their removal orders, were processed, and transitioned to a shelter in Del Rio with limited accommodations. Dozens of migrants were left to sleep at the Greyhound bus station pending the next available bus headed to San Antonio or Houston, or a flight from Del Rio Airport, to reunite with their loved ones. Upon this grim discovery, NHAEON quickly solicited the help of Fabien Reid of Unification De La Diaspora – Haitian Americans United for Change to assist with coordinating efforts to relocate the migrants from Del Rio to San Antonio by private bus charters and lodge them in hotels. Subsequently, Chairman Desulme reached out to Dr. Marie Etienne, the Haitian Alliance of Nurses Association-International (HANA-I) president, for additional support. Dr. Etienne and the entire network of Haitian Nurses immediately mobilized, and the following day several nurses were deployed between Del Rio and San Antonio.

On the night of September 19, Chairman Desulme, along with many NHAEON members from several states, led efforts to fund lodging and meals for dozens of migrants who were released by ICE and left at the Greyhound/Stripes gas station in Del Rio, Texas.

After hotel rooms were paid for and the migrants were safely in their rooms, they were discriminated against and evicted from the hotel. They were falsely accused of smuggling undocumented migrants and were denied accommodations. With the assistance of Jacqueline Charles, a multilingual journalist and Emmy Award-winning Caribbean correspondent at the Miami Herald, and a photographer, Chairman Desulme helped to de-escalate the situation. They provided information to dispel the false accusations; eventually, the hotel owner allowed the migrants to spend the night.

By Wednesday, September 22, NHAEON’s several meetings with partners regarding this crisis proved to be successful after they were told that ICE stopped dropping off migrants at the Greyhound stations. The parties responsible for the drop-offs found a way to send migrants from Del Rio directly to San Antonio toward their final destinations. NHAEON also managed to gain financial support from other members and volunteers to meet the basic needs of the Haitian migrants. After several calls and meetings with the Biden Administration, Chairman Desulme, Councilwoman Farah Louis, Democratic nominee, Rita Joseph, Councilman Donny Felix, Former Mayor, Andre Pierre, National Bar Association President, Carlos Moore, and other members of NHAEON staff were granted access to the migrants under the bridge. On Thursday, September 23, approximately 2,900 migrants remained under the bridge. The Department of Homeland Security had moved quickly to clear out the migrants, but Chairman Desulme had an opportunity to address the more than 2,900 migrants in their native language of Creole-Haitian.

Shortly after, the remaining migrants were either expelled back to Haiti, sent to a detention center, or released to their families. Currently, over 8,000 Haitians have been expelled from the U.S. without proper due process, and they have not been provided equal treatment as other migrants of diverse nationalities. The Biden Administration has decided to employ the U.S. code Title 42 created by former President Trump’s Senior Advisor, Stephen Miller.

On March 20, 2020, Biden’s Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) issued an emergency regulation to implement a specific aspect of the U.S. health law under Title 42 using COVID-19 as its reason for applying Title 42. This racist policy targets Haitian migrants who are seeking better opportunities in America just like every other group. Access to freedom should not be granted based on the color of someone’s skin.

Yet, the Administration does not apply this code to the other migrants who are NOT Black. This is wrong and inhumane treatment towards Haitian migrants who are being deprived of their legal appeal rights.

NHAEON continues to work with the Administration, various Congress members, and national legal advocacy/immigration groups to represent these migrants who are expected to be removed from the U.S.

We firmly believe that everyone deserves a fair chance in life. NHAEON will continue to advocate for the voiceless and fight for equal rights for all. We earnestly request that the Administration expands humanitarian efforts to Haitian migrants and those who have been disproportionately disenfranchised during this crisis.

View from Del Rio International Bridge