How we got to Haitian migrant crisis and how to get out

For years, we’ve had only a messy hodgepodge of policies under different administrations that vary in severity, effectiveness, and compassion. We can all agree that even if Biden didn’t cause the problem, it’s his to solve.



September 22, 2021 - 9:52 AM

Haitian migrants staying in an encampment on the U.S. side of the border, cross the Rio Grande river to get food and water in Mexico on Sunday, Sept. 19, 2021. (Paul Ratje/AFP/Getty Images/TNS)

From the drone’s-eye view many of us have on cable news, the thousands of Haitians — families, pregnant women, children, babies — milling around under a Del Rio bridge are an urgent problem to be solved.

Those of us who have read individual interviews with some of the families know that many have traveled years across continents on epic journeys to escape natural disasters, political unrest and poverty. They’re looking for better lives, for education, for decent wages they can feed their families on.

And we, from the comfort of our cozy recliners, just want a solution.

The solution that appeals to many is a perfectly tuned balance of security, efficiency and humanity, which is nothing but a pipe dream until this country passes comprehensive immigration reform and provides more resources, such as immigration judges, that would allow people to have their claims promptly considered and either receive relief or be deported.

For years, we’ve had only a messy hodgepodge of policies under different administrations that vary in severity, effectiveness, and compassion — leaving ordinary Americans across the political spectrum, and apparently plenty of migrants as well — confused about what current U.S. immigration law actually is.

The politicians, of course, enjoy this confusion because it’s much easier to spin their way. It’s much easier to weaponize to further divide us into partisan camps. And we happily oblige.

Take a recent poll by the Dallas Morning News and the University of Texas at Tyler. It found that 47% of the registered voters surveyed approve of Gov. Greg Abbott’s border immigration policies while only 29% approve of President Biden’s “handling of immigration at the U.S.-Mexico border.”

Only 36% of those polled said they thought Texas should spend more on the border wall, so perhaps people do understand that the state is throwing money at a federal issue without any real results.

“It might seem a paradox,” the poll’s director Mark Owens told the newspaper. “But the public wants to see some decisive action but also some welcoming or compassion.”

U.S. Border Patrol agents interact with Haitian immigrants on the bank of the Rio Grande in Del Rio, Texas, on Monday, Sept. 20, 2021, as seen from Ciudad Acuna, Mexico. (John Moore/Getty Images/TNS)

What Texans may not understand is that, by many accounts, Abbott is making the situation on the border even worse.

Until a court order stopped him, he was impeding the transport of asylum-seekers trying to leave the Valley for their next destination, usually with family. Then he flooded border towns with officers from various agencies, including state troopers and the Texas National Guard, that are apparently tripping over each other in their enforcement efforts. The governor’s directives to arrest migrants on trespassing charges have needlessly clogged jails and courts with thousands of cases while ensnaring asylum-seekers, who have a legal right to have their claims heard.

“Nobody knows what to do, and every time somebody thinks they figure it out, something new happens,” David Ortiz, a court-appointed attorney representing clients with trespassing cases, told the Texas Tribune.

The Tribune reported that earlier this month, the Val Verde County Attorney David Martinez dismissed dozens of cases against migrants “in the interest of justice,” after more recent guidance from the state to focus on dangerous criminals, not migrants seeking asylum. What a great idea.

BIDEN, MEANWHILE, is being blamed by Republicans for causing the crisis at the border with his “open border policies.” Nothing could be further than the truth.

Biden may well have contributed to continued flows of migrants by virtue of simply being elected. He ran as the anti-Trump, promising more humane enforcement of U.S. border policy.

On the enforcement side, Biden doubled the number of migrant detainees from the start of his administration and his expulsions have mostly kept pace with Trump’s, drawing condemnation from liberals in his own party and immigration advocates for keeping the Trump era Title 42 policy that allows for many migrants to be immediately expelled from the country amid the pandemic, depriving many of an asylum hearing. When a court blocked the provision for families, the Biden administration appealed to get it back.