HAITIAN ASYLUM SEEKERS LANGUISH IN MEXICO
Amid a surge of migrants at the US/Mexico border, are a group of people that is often left out of the narrative. There are currently around 4,000 people from Haiti living in the border city of Tijuana, Mexico. Awaiting the resolution of asylum cases, this Haitian population faces rising levels of discrimination from both the authorities and other asylum seekers. There have been multiple accounts of Haitian asylum seekers being passed over for food distribution, Haitian children being denied spots in encampment schools, and anti-Haitian sentiment growing in asylum camps along the border. Haitians make up the sixth-largest group of asylum seekers in the US, however, the chance of Haitians being granted asylum is comparatively low. Over 20 years (2001 to 2021), US immigration judges denied 82% of Haitian asylum petitions, while denial rates for people of other origins average between 50-65%, according to data published by Syracuse University. People have been emigrating from Haiti for several years due to political and social unrest, as well as deteriorating economic conditions. The devastating 2010 earthquake, which killed about 250,000 people, also caused a mass exodus as millions became homeless after the disaster. The United States was not the first destination for many fleeing Haiti. Brazil was a popular choice, as the government granted thousands of Haitians the ability to work on infrastructure projects leading up to the 2014 World Cup and 2016 Rio Olympics. However, once those work permits expired, many Haitians made their way toward the United States. Many hoped that the Biden administration would implement more lenient immigration policies, however, since President Biden began his tenure, there have been 28 expulsion flights back to Haiti, sending more than 1,200 people back to the island nation. Unable to get US asylum, and facing increasing discrimination in Mexico, Haitians say they have nowhere to go and are losing hope.
From a Christian perspective, almost 90% of Mexicans claim to be Christian. Multiple non-profit and ministry organisations are working with asylum seekers at the border, however, many of these groups work more closely with Central American asylum seekers. Aid organisations and local churches often provide aid to those living close to the border in tent encampments. However – especially in more recent times – many Haitians have left these encampments due to poor treatment and are therefore less likely to receive that aid. Haitian asylum seekers also face some challenges in Mexico that many Central American immigrants do not. Most do not speak Spanish, and physically they have a harder time blending in with the local population. These differences have resulted in many Haitians facing harsh discrimination in Mexico. The Bible speaks at length about how foreigners should be treated. “When a foreigner resides with you in your land, you must not oppress him. You must treat the foreigner living among you as native-born and love him as yourself, for you were foreigners in the land of Egypt. I am the Lord your God.” (Leviticus 19:33-34). The plight of Haitian asylum seekers serves as a reminder of the duty of Christians within host communities to care for the foreigners in their land, and not just those who are most like themselves. Other asylum seekers, many of whom are from Christian-majority nations, could also care for the Haitians among them, as they can relate to some of the struggles they are facing.
Please pray with us for the following:
- For Haitian asylum seekers to receive the aid and resources that they need to live in a foreign land and culture
- For the Mexican Church to seek opportunities to reach out to hurting and hopeless Haitian people in their communities
- For the larger body of believers around the world to not grow tired of praying for and supporting the asylum seekers, refugees, and immigrants suffering in their midst
File photo: REUTERS/Jose Luis Gonzalez