FederalImmigration & BorderIssuesMany Haitian Nationals Came From Chile and Brazil Before Heading to Del Rio

Here's a look back at the rush on Del Rio that captured the nation’s attention and raised alarm over the Biden administration’s immigration policies.
October 7, 2021
In mid-September, almost 30,000 mostly Haitian nationals crossed the Rio Grande River in Val Verde County and established an encampment near and under the Del Rio International Bridge, which had approximately 15,000 people at any given point. The conditions of the commune of illegal aliens were squalid, and Americans rushed to provide humanitarian assistance while urgent calls for stronger border enforcement grew louder.

The sudden arrival of tens of thousands of Haitian nationals in Del Rio raises the question of how it is that so many foreign individuals arrived in the United States with the expectation that they would be able to stay.

To begin with, Haiti is in many ways unsafe and faces severe infrastructural challenges, especially after it suffered a historic earthquake on January 12, 2010. The natural disaster prompted many Haitian citizens to leave their homeland for safer countries where they could earn a living.

Today, the United States Department of State (DOS) advises against traveling to the Caribbean nation, which happens to be the poorest in the Western hemisphere.

If one chooses to travel to Haiti, DOS advises adherence to strict safety precautions such as arranging transportation from the airport and lodging in advance and purchasing travel insurance and medical evacuation insurance. The department warns that kidnappings of Americans are commonplace and “the U.S. government is extremely limited in its ability to provide emergency services to U.S. citizens in Haiti.”

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In a tragic example of the skyrocketing number of abductions, Reuters reported in April that a gang murdered a five-year-old girl because her mother could not afford the $4,000 ransom they demanded.

To make matters worse, the country sustained another earthquake in August and Haitian President Jovenel Moïse was assassinated on July 7, 2021.

Here at home, Texans have had economic challenges of their own, especially in light of the governmental response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Crime and violence are also concerns in densely populated Texas cities, such as Dallas and Austin, albeit not to the scale that it is in Haiti.

After the earthquake in 2010, many Haitians went to Chile and Brazil. According to the International Organization for Migration (IOM), the Brazilian government began offering permanent humanitarian visas to Haitians in 2011. The IOM also helped Brazil open a visa application center in the capital city of Port-au-Prince, Haiti, on September 29, 2015, in order “to ensure a safe, dignified and legal migration channel to Brazil.”

After a meeting between Haitian Ambassador Bocchit Edmond and Secretary of Homeland Security Alejandro Mayorkas, the federal Department of Homeland Security (DHS) highlighted the role of Chile and Brazil in addressing the issue of Haitians fleeing their homeland.

“The Department of Homeland Security continues its engagement with partners in the hemisphere, including Brazil and Chile, to ensure they too are doing their part to offer protection for vulnerable populations and receive individuals who had legal status there,” DHS said in a written statement.

As summarized by the Associated Press, the vast majority of Haitians begin their treks on flights to Brazil, Chile, or other locations in South America, and then proceed through Central America and Mexico when there are too few employment opportunities. They then wait in Mexico near the United States border, sometimes for many years, hoping to claim asylum at some point.

Del Rio seemed like a good spot after Biden administration officials granted temporary protected status and deportation flights ceased in early September. Haitians communicated with one another via social networking platforms such as Facebook and WhatsApp, the AP reported, which allow people to orchestrate illegal crossings if they are not tied to human smuggling.

There may have been misunderstandings about the temporary protected status, which was only granted to Haitians who have been in the United States since before July 29.

In a White House press conference following the ordeal on September 24, United States Secretary of Homeland Security Alejandro Mayorkas indicated that the department had encountered about 30,000 illegal aliens in Del Rio since September 9. Thousands of them were reportedly allowed to stay in the United States and claim asylum. Meanwhile, 7,200 Haitians have been returned on deportation flights since the Del Rio surge, NBC News reported on Thursday.

As for the future, there could be a historic number of border crossings this month, and there have been no major policy changes since the most recent Del Rio surge that would seem to deter another similar event.

In the aftermath, Val Verde County and others are debating yet another lawsuit against Biden over the crisis. For his part, Governor Greg Abbott made clear in a press conference on Wednesday that he has no confidence whatsoever in Mayorkas and believes the secretary should vacate his post.


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Hayden Sparks

Hayden Sparks is a senior reporter for The Texan and a lifelong resident of the Lone Star State. He has coached competitive speech and debate and has been involved in politics since a young age. One of Hayden's favorite quotes is by Sam Houston: "Texas has yet to learn submission to any oppression, come from what source it may."