[by Ashley Miznazi/The Haitian Times; Photo: Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas accompanies the US President, Joe Biden, as he visits the US-Mexico border in El Paso, Texas on Jan. 8, 2023, and speaks with patrol officers along the border fence to assess border enforcement operations. Courtesy: Tia Dufour/Department of Homeland Security]

“Do not, do not, just show up at the border,” President Joe Biden said to migrants from Haiti, Cuba, Nicaragua and Venezuela during a Jan. 5 press conference at the White House.

Haitians, Nicaraguans and Cubans will be automatically expelled at the United States border, while the U.S. government puts in place a new program that will allow 30,000 people to apply for entry from their home countries through a humanitarian parole plan. The plan, previously offered to only Venezuelans, drastically decreased the number of Venezuelans at the U.S. southern border, U.S. and Mexican officials said. 

The plan denies asylum to those without family connections in the U.S. or financial sponsorship commitments for two years. Advocates say this is not always possible for people fleeing violence and persecution in their home country and called the plan an expansion of a Trump-era policy that gives border agents the power to turn away Haitians without giving them a chance to seek asylum, while Title 42 also continues on. Title 42 is a pandemic-era federal policy that quickly expels migrants to Mexico.

“Every day that these policies are in place, people seeking refuge will be turned away to suffer horrific abuses,” advocacy group Human Rights First said.

Paul Namphy, lead organizer of Family Action Network Movement (FANM), told The Haitian Times the border plan is exclusionary. 

“The right to seek safety should not be a function of your family’s checkbook,” Namphy said. “This is the marketplace discriminating against the poor.”

Namphy instead suggests the U.S. should abide by the recommendations of the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees and the United Nations Commissioner for Human Rights. Both have asked the U.S. to institute protection arrangements, such as Temporary Protected Status (TPS), and also to stop the deportations of Haitians back to Haiti.

Following the human rights crisis in Del Rio, the U.S. the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) spent millions of dollars and used the Title 42 policy to expel over 15,000 Haitians, and has continued to do so. 

Mexico agreed to accept up to 30,000 migrants each month from the four countries who attempt to walk or swim across the U.S.-Mexico border and are turned back, the White House said.

Haitians stranded in Mexico face anti-Black discrimination, facing medical neglect and attacks. At least seven Haitians have been murdered in Tijuana this year, The Haitian Bridge Alliance reports.

The Haitian Bridge alliance will analyze the administration’s latest policy plans and offer their recommendations for humanitarian reforms from their experience on the ground Jan. 6, 2023. Biden visited El Paso on Jan. 8, assessing operations and met with local officials and community leaders.

The plan condemned

On Jan. 6, The Interfaith Immigration Coalition organized a call, where border and immigration experts analyzed the administration’s plans. 

“While yesterday’s announcement that the administration is opening more pathways for Haitians, Venezuelans, Cubans, and Nicaraguans to come to the United States is a step in the right direction, this announcement does not bring us closer to restoring our broken immigration system,” Guerline Jozef, Executive Director of Haitian Bridge Alliance, said during a call organized by The Interfaith Immigration Coalition on Jan. 6, where border and immigration experts analyzed the administration’s plans. “We see firsthand the negative consequences and disproportionate impact on Black migrants that the current state of our immigration system brings. We can have a fair, orderly, and humane immigration system that welcomes all with dignity and that is rooted in justice and language access.”

Dylan Corbett, Executive Director of the Hope Border Institute in El Paso, added: “At the end of the day, the expansion of Title 42 to include Cubans, Haitians, and Nicaraguans is a broken promise. Rather than putting our country on a sure path to fully restoring asylum at the border, these new actions entrench a dangerous, ineffective, and inhumane policy.”

Pedro Rios, Director of the US-Mexico Border Program, American Friends Service Committee (AFSC), added: “The promise of asylum is an enshrined right under federal law and international agreements meant to respond to tyranny and despair that forces thousands of people to flee their home countries. The United States undermines that promise every day that Title 42 remains in place, and it endangers the lives of those seeking shelter from harm.”

Said Melissa Crow, Director of Litigation, Center for Gender and Refugee Studies (CGRS), added: “It has been deeply disturbing to hear the President affirm that seeking asylum is legal, pledge to create a safe and humane process at the border, and then turn around and announce policies that further undermine access to the U.S. asylum process. These reckless policy decisions will exact a horrific human toll and leave a lasting stain on the President’s legacy.”

Eleanor Acer, Senior Director for Refugee Protection at Human Rights First, added: “The pursuit of an asylum ban—a policy straight from the Trump playbook—would be a tremendous political miscalculation. It will play into the hands of allies of the former administration by bolstering their messages and normalizing their agenda, cause disorder rather than order, turn away Black and Brown refugees to suffer grave harms, separate families, and subvert refugee law.”