As of May 18, the Department of Homeland Security has released 15,000 Haitian migrants from detention.
This news has been met with intense consternation. Haitians are most concerned about the fact that only half of these releases are actually for criminal proceedings, said Haitian legal expert Delphine Andrys-Mirngre, who has represented a number of the new group of deportees. This means that thousands of Haitians are being released back into the United States. The reason given for this mass release is because DHS alleges that there are insufficient funds to continue funding refugee processing centers in Haiti, because of the current wave of irregular migrants heading back to Haiti and the Trump administration’s budgetary belt-tightening.
“Why is there this sudden announcement?” asked Andrys-Mirngre in an interview with Global Voices. “Either DHS has decided to announce that it has recently released the 15,000 through public relations because people know they are being released…or they have no intention of sending these people to Haiti,” she added.
Regardless of the reasons, Haitian Migration was a serious matter that caused distress and outrage on the part of our communities in Washington DC and around the world. The US had detained undocumented migrants fleeing the country, which was a constant source of chaos. It made for many stories, like when a group of Haitian immigrants in an immigration detention center tried to jump the fence and were tasered by police. This incident was broadcast around the world by social media, as it was captured on security camera footage.
Still, Andrys-Mirngre believes that it may be too soon to judge whether this decision will mean the end of the mass exodus from Haiti, since the current wave of undocumented migrants to the US only started in mid-2017, when the Trump administration officially began to change policies regarding undocumented Haitians.
“It does not make sense to me why people are still leaving because they do not know if they will be allowed to come back to the US or not,” she said. “If the Haitians are being warned that all Haitians may be deported, they may look for another way to go to the US, and that is why there has been a surge in numbers.”
Andrys-Mirngre also expressed doubts about the “ongoing debate and discussion” between the Haitian government and its partners that border Haiti, claiming that this is not focused on the well-being of the Haitian people but rather on the bottom line of more financial support from the US.
“Haiti has to rethink the way it looks at the US relationship,” she added. “Haitians were focused on what could happen to them with the US immigration reform. Now that it is back on track, we are just focusing on US financial support,” she said.
New policy could lead to chaos, advises Human Rights Watch
As the Haitian migration crisis increased and so did the number of deportations from the US, Human Rights Watch had called on the Trump administration to close detention facilities for Haitian nationals. They would do so, the group told the New York Times, “to ensure that the vast majority of people deported to Haiti by the United States are not deported back to the country they fled because they faced or are fleeing serious dangers, including violence, political persecution, starvation, and the threat of death at the hands of criminal gangs.”
However, Donald Trump has indicated that he is against doing so, and has previously stated that he “would send the same message” that he told the Haitian people – you should go back home, not to the US but back to Haiti.
Now, many are speculating whether the recent mass release of Haitian migrants back into the US will prove to be a just act or the precursor of a broader decision to force the Haitian people back to the country.