Thousands of Haitians are indefinitely trapped in Mexico. They face pervasive racism, and many are unable to work, have no access to medical care, and are targets for criminals. Most have arrived in the last year, hoping that the Biden presidency would open up an opportunity for them to finally seek protection in the US.
Those hopes were in vain. Now, Mexico is seeing a sharp uptick in Haitian asylum applicants — a surge it is unequipped to manage — all because the United States has offloaded its immigration responsibilities onto its neighbor.
The Biden administration continues to enforce pandemic-related border restrictions that have kept out the vast majority of asylum seekers, including Haitians; it’s deported nearly 14,000 Haitians since September 2021 despite their country’s political and economic crises. As a result, many Haitians face a difficult choice: Try to cross the US border and risk getting deported to Haiti if caught, or attempt to make a life for themselves in Mexico, at least temporarily.
“Mexico is increasingly going to have to look like at least a long-term stopover point, if not a forever place, because the last thing people want to do is to head back to Haiti after they’ve been on the move for so long,” said Caitlyn Yates, a consultant for the Migration Policy Institute and PhD student studying Haitian migration at the University of British Columbia.