Q&A: US, Mexican policies on arriving Haitians vary

Associated Press

Up to 4,000 Haitians established a community in Mexico's northwest corner after the United States abruptly shut its doors last year. Here are some questions and answers about U.S. and Mexican policies.

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WHAT ABOUT HAITIANS IN THE UNITED STATES?

After Haiti's earthquake in 2010, about 58,000 Haitians who arrived in the U.S. by January 2011 got "temporary protected status," which includes work authorization. In June, the Trump administration extended their status to January.

Separately, thousands of Haitians who were taken in by Brazil and other South American countries after the earthquake began making their way to the United States last year through San Diego's San Ysidro border crossing with Mexico. U.S. Customs and Border Protection says 6,424 Haitians showed up at border crossings with Mexico during the 12-month period ended Sept. 30, up from only 334 a year earlier. They were generally paroled to live in the United States on humanitarian grounds.

President Barack Obama's administration said in September that it would resume deportations under pre-earthquake guidelines. The number of Haitian arrivals surged as the new policy slowly took effect, peaking at 4,022 in October and reaching 2,220 in November. The numbers plummeted as the U.S. began deporting Haitians on three flights a week, falling to 214 by February and 26 in June.

Ronald Vitiello, Customs and Border Protection's acting deputy chief, told Congress in May that the new posture sent "a clear message" that Haitians who don't have a legitimate asylum claim will be detained and deported.

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WHAT IS THE MEXICAN GOVERNMENT DOING?

About 2,700 of an estimated 3,000 Haitians still in Baja California state have received one-year, renewable humanitarian visas, according to Mexican immigration official Rodulfo Figueroa.

"They can stay indefinitely for humanitarian reasons," said Figueroa, the National Migration Institute's delegate for Baja California, which includes Tijuana. "We'll find ways to support them. We don't want people without status. The policy here is everybody who is in the country should have status."

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WHAT'S UP WITH CUBANS?

Cubans were also stranded on Mexico's northern border but under much different circumstances. On Jan. 12, Obama ended the "wet-foot, dry-foot" policy introduced in the mid-1990s that sent back Cubans who were intercepted at sea but gave an automatic path to legal residency to those who reached land.

There were 14,396 Cubans who entered the U.S. by land from Mexico from October 2015 to September 2016, 93 percent of them through Laredo, Texas, according to Customs and Border Protection. The monthly average surged to 4,072 Cubans from October to December. Then it sank to 65 by February and 20 in March.

Giovanni Bizzotto, who manages a migrant shelter in Nuevo Laredo, Mexico, said there were about 1,000 Cubans this spring in the city across from the Texas border but their numbers fell sharply as some sought asylum in the United States. Mexico has granted one-year humanitarian visas, and is considering refugee status for some, he said.

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