“Already grappling with coronavirus, a political crisis stemming from President Jovenel Moïse’s assassination last month and resulting gang violence, Haiti was hit with a two-punch 7.2-magnitude earthquake and tropical depression this week, leaving almost 2,000 dead and thousands more injured or missing.
Thousands are without shelter because some 83,000 homes have been destroyed. International aid has been slow to arrive, delayed by Tropical Storm Grace’s heavy rains, and some Haitians are frustrated that their own government hasn’t done enough to help.
Also of little help has been the United States, one of the contributors to Haiti’s political and economic troubles, which has the ability to aid Haitians attempting to flee the country due to its three most recent crises, but has instead prevented them from accessing the protection to which many of them are entitled.
The Biden administration has sent a search and rescue team to the island and is transporting medical personnel to the most hard-hit areas and carrying out evacuations. It is also distributing much-needed supplies, such as food, hygiene kits, and tents.
But the administration is still turning away Haitians who have chosen to flee in light of recent events. Thousands of Haitians are still stuck in Mexico on account of US policies, which currently allow asylum seekers and other migrants to be turned away on the basis of pandemic-related border restrictions, known as the Title 42 policy.
Many more Haitians may seek entry: Though it’s hard to estimate how many, the Darién Gap, a treacherous stretch of jungle and swamp on the border of Panama and Colombia that has functioned as a migrant corridor, has seen more crossings this year — at least 46,000 — than it has in the previous three years combined, and most of those attempting to navigate it are Haitians and Cubans.
The Biden administration has allowed more than 100,000 Haitians who arrived in the US before July 29, 2021, to apply for Temporary Protected Status (TPS), which is typically offered to citizens of countries suffering from natural disasters or armed conflict. Those people are able to live and work in the US free of fear of deportation.
But that doesn’t help those who might be continuing to leave the country due to the political fallout from Moïse’s July 7 assassination, or now, in the aftermath of Saturday’s earthquake. What’s more, Haitians who have been prohibited from entering the US under Title 42, for which experts say there is no public health justification, appear indefinitely trapped in Mexico. And the US has continued to carry out deportation flights of Haitians despite the turmoil.
At the same time, the Biden administration has discouraged Haitians, as well as Cubans fleeing their communist regime’s recent crackdown on anti-government protesters, from trying to reach the US by boat. Officials have made clear that those who try will be intercepted by the US Coast Guard and will not be permitted to enter the US. Instead, they will either be repatriated back to Haiti or, if they can demonstrate the need for humanitarian protection, resettled in another country.”