Update on Haitian Entrants to San Diego from Alliance San Diego director Andrea Guerrero
Alliance San Diego
September 30, 2016
US Shuts Out Haitians – Exacerbates Humanitarian Concerns:
- On September 24th, the US Department of Homeland Security (DHS) abruptly halted humanitarian parole for Haitians arriving to our California border, citing changed country conditions in Haiti and the need to deter more people from coming.
- The news came as a shock given that our own US State Department has issued travel warnings for Haiti, which is suffering from political and economic instability and is still recovering from natural and other disasters including a devastating earthquake followed by a hurricane followed by a cholera epidemic that have displaced or killed countless Haitians.
- At this moment, another natural disaster, Hurricane Matthew, is hurtling towards Haiti. The country has no sitting president and is embroiled in a controversial election process. Contrary to what DHS has stated, the situation in Haiti has not improved, it has worsened, warranting a humanitarian response, not harsh enforcement.
- The sudden change in policy, which may have been motivated more by politics in the US than conditions in Haiti, has left at least 50 families separated with some family members having been granted humanitarian parole and others caught behind in the line. This includes women and children separated from their husbands and fathers.
- Today, the NYT reported in its article, “Haitian Men Cut Off From Families as U.S. Tightens Entry Rules,” on the tragic consequences of the abrupt shift in policy, highlighting the story of Sandra who was let through first because she was pregnant, leaving her fiancé and father of her unborn baby behind. On Sunday, Sandra gave birth to their daughter, with the father desperately seeking entry but prevented from entering the country because of an arbitrary halt to humanitarian parole that did not take into account the separation of families.
- Without an effort to rectify this situation, DHS’ forced separation of family members may mean that families are separated for a lifetime. Those who crossed through will be able to stay in a humanitarian status in the US. Those who were caught on the other side will be stuck in Mexico or detained if they approach the border under threat of deportation until Haiti is able to receive them back, if it ever is.
- Alliance San Diego and our allies are advocating that DHS, at a minimum, allow Sandra’s fiancé, as well as other separated families, to enter the country, recognizing that these families were separated when the music stopped in a tragic game of musical chairs played by the US government without regard to the human consequences.
San Diego Humanitarian Response:
- Although the flow of Haitians entering California ceased on 9/24, there were roughly 175 who still needed shelter at the beginning of the week. Our local San Diego Immigrant Rights Consortium (SDIRC) responded as it has done for some time with support from state agencies and community volunteers (some of whom have flown in from other parts of California and the US) to provide shelter to our Haitian brothers and sisters in National Guard facilities.
- Christ Ministry Center, has shouldered the weight of providing support for the Haitian entrants all summer long, providing transition shelter to an estimated 4,000 in waves through the course of the summer until the National Guard stepped in two weeks ago. Although the bulk of the people in need of shelter moved over the National Guard facilities, CMC has continued to shelter pregnant women and their families. At the beginning of the week they had approximately 15 pregnant women under their care, three of whom have given birth in the last week, including Sandra.
- Our goal this week has been to assist the Haitian entrants who were destined elsewhere to move on. Catholic Charities, with support from the state and federal government, has provided travel assistance to those in the shelters and by Sunday, everyone moving on will have done so.
- By the end of this week we estimate that 60 people will remain from the National Guard shelter and be in need of transition shelter for another couple of weeks until they are able to access the government programs dedicated for Haitians. We are grateful to Catholic Charities for assisting them to secure housing and settle in San Diego. They will join several hundred other Haitians who will remain in San Diego. By end Sunday, the National Guard facilities will no longer be available, but we are actively pursuing transition shelter for the 60 described above.
- Christ Ministry Center and their tireless Haitian Ministry team will continue to house up to 24 women and children who need greater assistance, and they will continue to provide broader support to the several hundred Haitians who will be staying in the area. CMC has drained its resources to step up with compassion and needs our help to provide ongoing support. If you are able to make a financial contribution, please do so at www.haitisd.com.
Mexico Humanitarian Response:
- Despite the change in US policy on 9/24, the Haitian migrants are still entering Mexico. They are coming mostly from Brazil where they have been living displaced from Haiti since the 2010 earthquake. They are coming now because of the political and economic turmoil in Brazil, which has displaced them yet again.
- The displaced Haitians are coming to the US because they believe the US will help them. We have in fact made a long-term commitment to the Haitian people, with President Obama promising not to forsake or forget them. Unfortunately, that promise was broken last week.
- Approximately 150 Haitians are entering Mexico every day. They are making their way to the California border steadily. Our best estimate is that there are 1,600 Haitians in Tijuana and Mexicali right now. They are given turns to approach the border. Roughly 50 / day are allowed to approach the border from Tijuana and 40 / day from Mexicali. All of them will be detained under threat of deportation to Haiti.
- Despite the change in US policy, which replaces a humanitarian parole with detention and deportation, our Haitian brothers and sisters are still coming forward, stating they cannot turn back after a harrowing journey that has lasted up to four months and have no place else to turn. In some cases, they have claims for asylum based on the fear that the government will harm them or be unable or unwilling to protect them.
- The Mexican government is not currently deporting Haitians and has taken some steps to respond in a humanitarian way, opening up additional shelter space and providing temporary status (30 days), with additional assistance contemplated. But Mexico has not provided any permanent refuge to the Haitians, nor has any other country they have passed through in the western hemisphere. They remain displaced, destitute, and despondent.
- The charitable coalition of shelters in Tijuana and Mexicali has been providing ongoing shelter and other support to the Haitians all summer long. These shelters have the capacity to house, feed, and serve about 600 people total and are struggling to meet the need, especially with the US closing it’s doors to Haitians. If you are able to assist the shelters with financial contributions, please contact Esmeralda Siu at email@example.com.
How You Can Help:
- Spread the word about what’s happening to our displaced Haitian brothers and sisters. Here’s a local TV news story that may help: “U.S. closes door to Haitian earthquake survivors.”
- Sign the petition to the White House started by our friends in Florida to “Tell President Obama to Reverse Deportation Policy against Haitian Refugees.”
- Support the humanitarian response in San Diego at www.haitisd.com.
- Support the humanitarian response in Mexico by contacting Esmeralda Siu at firstname.lastname@example.org.
- Stay connected via Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/immigrantsandiego