Asylum Seekers from Haiti Still Searching for Safety
08 June 2022
In January 2010, an earthquake hit the island of Haiti and set into motion a years-long migration crisis. An estimated 220,000 people were killed, and 1.5 million people became homeless setting off a massive surge of migration from a country that long-suffered from instability and insecurity.
Many who fled Haiti traveled to places promising the best possible stability, including Brazil and Chile. Brazil offered special work visas and a welcoming border policy at the time. Chile held similar promise, removing visa requirements for Haitians until 2018 and offering a safe haven for those looking to build a new life.
Yet declining economies and the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic in Latin America resulted in a rise in overt racism and xenophobia towards Haitian migrants. Haitians reported being paid less for their work, pushed into ghetto housing, and having slurs or insults openly used against them. This forced many Haitians to continue to push north in their journey.
Elange Dorlouis is one migrant still searching for peace and stability. Now 40 years old, Elange first left Haiti in 2011 after his uncle was killed while working together in the family business. He first traveled to the Dominican Republic and then arrived in Chile to find work opportunities. He left behind his wife and three children and eventually left Chile after living conditions became more challenging.
In July 2021, Elange heard about a caravan of other Haitian migrants heading to Mexico. He hoped Mexico would offer the safety and opportunity he was looking for, and the possibility of reuniting with his family. The caravan traveled through the Amazon rainforest and the notorious Darien Gap where they endured horrific living conditions and unspeakable violence. Many perished or suffered at the hands of violent gangs along the way.
Elange arrived in Mexico in August 2021 and Jesuit Refugee Service Mexico is helping him complete the paperwork necessary to petition for asylum in Mexico. JRS also provides him with food and cash assistance. His greatest hope is to reunite with his family and find a job to support himself and his family. “I know that I need to do what I must to bring my family here, for my family.”
While Elange is planning to settle in Mexico if his asylum application is approved, many others have traveled to the U.S.-Mexico border in hopes that the Biden Administration would provide opportunities for protection.
Thousands gathered in Del Rio, TX in September 2021, yet the U.S. responded by enforcing policies that significantly limit access to asylum – including Title 42 and the Migrant Protection Protocols – and deporting thousands back to Haiti. Many more were expelled back to Mexico where they continue to wait patiently for the opportunity to legally enter the U.S.
Migration patterns in the Western Hemisphere are challenging and complex, yet the U.S. must work with regional partners to develop a comprehensive regional plan that addresses these challenges. Vulnerable populations, including Haitians, must be prioritized as they continue to search for safety and security.