Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, when asked by a reporter about the deaths of the Cubans allegedly killed while trying to swim to America, said “we do not have a particular issue to worry about there,” adding that his department had “isolated” the tragedy. This “isolated” incident has become the focus of the news in recent days. The Associated Press reports that “Thousands of Haitian asylum seekers have died in the sweltering Texas heat in recent years by drowning in the Rio Grande or from a lack of shade along the U.S.-Mexico border.”
The Associated Press reports that (emphasis mine):
The same facts about the deaths are disturbing — and grimly unsurprising — in Texas, where thousands of Haitians have been detained at detention centers since last year, many of them for months. Life inside the detention center is often increasingly unpleasant, according to a human rights advocacy group. It’s so crowded, for example, that an increase in sexual assaults is seen, the group says. That increased risk could explain why 383 of the Haitians, or nearly a third, have died since they were first detained in 2017. That’s the highest amount of deaths from detention of any of the 12 categories of individuals at the southern border who a U.S. government watchdog has identified as likely victims of abuse in immigration custody, according to data from the Department of Homeland Security. The National Immigrant Justice Center said in a report in January that 2,076 Haitians and Cubans had died in the southern border region since Jan. 1, 2010, when authorities began sharply increasing deportations after a child migrant named Jakelin Caal, 7, died. About 23 percent of the deaths occurred in centers run by private companies, followed by the federal government at 19 percent. The International Organization for Migration said 975 Haitians died in the southern border region from 2010 through 2015, including at detention centers and unsafe border crossings. DHS said 77 percent of the deaths were from being caught in the U.S.-Mexico border region, with 17 percent of deaths occurring in Central America. DHS said the rest were a mix of death at sea, being at a crossing or being at home. DHS declined to provide death reports, saying such information could jeopardize an ongoing criminal investigation.
According to the BBC, between 7,000 and 20,000 Haitians crossed the border between January and June, a sharp increase over last year, when 3,500 crossed. The BBC reported the following:
An aid group says that more than 20,000 people, mainly Haitian, have been detained near Texas’s south Texas border since December, the majority of them families with children. The group, the National Immigrant Justice Center, said in its report that child deaths and suicides in detention have been reported. It said: “The compound housing families in McAllen, Texas, is one of the largest detention centers ever built. It houses around 1,000 families daily.” US Customs and Border Protection has defended its use of the centre, saying: “Facility design and operation are designed to provide a safe, sanitary and timely placement of adults and children, respectively.”
Haitian asylum-seekers make up the largest group of undocumented immigrants in Texas. The NBC Washington bureau reported: