Immigration advocacy groups and community organizations are speaking out and assisting thousands of Haitian migrants facing expulsion at the Texas-Mexico border in Del Rio.
Since arriving last week, the Biden administration responded with plans to expel the migrants under Title 42, a Trump-era public health law.
While the vast majority of those that flocked to the border town are Haitian, there are also people from Venezuela, Nicaragua and Cuba. Many had come with boxes of food on their heads and wet clothes in their hands, as they waded through waist-deep water to camp at a bridge in Del Rio to seek asylum in the United States.
Some of the Haitian migrants at the encampment had said they left Haiti as a result of the recent earthquake and the assassination of President Jovenel Moïse.
“In Haiti, there is no security,” 38-year old Fabricio Jean said to reporters from the Associated Press. “The country is in a political crisis.”
Jean arrived in Texas with his wife and two daughters.
According to immigration law, anyone can apply for asylum as long as they are in the United States or are at a port of entry. “They have a right to ask for asylum, whether they have a strong case, a weak case or no case,” said Zenobia Lai, executive director of the Houston Immigration Legal Services Collaborative.
But with Title 42, which allows for immediate deportation to limit the spread of COVID-19, migrants at the border do not have the opportunity to make a case. The only exception by President Joe Biden is unaccompanied children.
The administration is reportedly planning to quickly deport migrants with seven daily flights starting Wednesday to Port-au-Prince and Cap-Haitien, according to the AP, following the 10 flights that arrived in Haiti from Sunday to Tuesday.
However, two officials, not authorized to discuss the situation, had said Tuesday that many Haitian migrants are being released in the country, saying as many as “thousands.” They said that they are freed with notices to arrive at an immigration office within 60 days.
Taisha Saintil, legislative and communications director for the Haitian Bridge Alliance, said only a “very small number” is being released and only because they are “at risk.” She said this includes pregnant women who are in their third trimester, babies who are sick and people who cannot physically make the flight back to Haiti.
“We’re hearing that most of them are not being given notice to appear, in which they should have because that’s how you can go through the asylum process,” she said. “But even that’s not being done correctly right now for them.”
Haitian Bridge Alliance, a community organization based in San Diego that works to help Haitians and other Black immigrants in California, has been on the ground in Texas, directly assisting migrants that are still at the border, as well as those who have been released.
Tuesday night, more than 38 civil rights, human rights and immigration advocacy leaders, including those from HBA, the American Civil Liberties Union and the NAACP Legal Defense and Education Fund, called on the White House to stop the expulsion of migrants at the border.
Here are some ways the general public can help.
Advocates are encouraging people to educate themselves about what is occurring at the border and to size up the situation. Saintil recommends people to follow HBA’s Facebook, Twitter and Instagram for live updates.
“We will be doing everything we can to get people to know about exactly what’s happening, who’s doing what, what needs to be done,” Saintil said.
Other organizations that are working alongside HBA to help Haitian migrants are UndocuBlack and Black Alliance for Just Immigration. These groups are also active on their social media accounts, sharing updates and resources.
Saintil said, at this moment, there is no opportunity for volunteer efforts at the border because it is heavily guarded and only a limited amount of people can be on the ground in Del Rio. Instead, HBA is asking the public to donate to their efforts.
The monetary donations will be going toward resources, such as bus tickets, diapers, formula, food, water, masks, sanitary pads, clothes and interpreters. It will also go toward temporary housing for those that are being released into the U.S.
Val Verde Border Humanitarian Coalition, a faith-based group in Del Rio, is also asking for donations to provide migrants with blankets, non-perishable foods and hygiene supplies. They anticipate distributing these essentials next Monday.
Concerned? Here’s what you can do
If you’re concerned with what’s happening on the border, advocacy groups say you can send letters or call the White House and local congressional representatives to ask them to stop deportation flights, uphold asylum law and provide protection to migrants.
“We have seen the pictures, we have seen what is happening right now,” Saintil said. “Let the administration know the world is watching and they need to act swiftly.”
She adds that people can also speak out on social media and tag the Department of Homeland Security, Immigration and Customs Enforcement and Alejandro Mayorkas, the secretary of DHS.
Attend volunteer events
Some local community groups are organizing events that people can attend or volunteer with to support the migrants at the border. At 4 p.m., Friday, Bay Area advocacy group Haiti Action Committee will be holding an “Emergency Demonstration” in San Francisco at the New Federal Building on Seventh Street and Mission.
Nurses, translators, cooks and volunteers are also being asked by the non-profit Houston Haitians United to help the migrants that are being transported to a transitional shelter in north Houston. According to a report by KHOU 11, the organization is seeing two to three buses a day with each bringing as many as 65 people.