He crossed the Mexican border into Texas only two weeks ago, joyous at the prospect of building anew in the United States. Now part of the first wave of deportees rapidly ejected by the Biden administration amid a fresh surge at the border, Johnson Bordes, 23, stepped off a Boeing 737 on Sunday and into the Haitian capital, terrified by a city torn apart by violence in a homeland he could barely remember.
Like many deportees arriving on charter flights at the airport in Port-au-Prince, 15 minutes from neighborhoods controlled by brutal armed gangs, Bordes’s family left Haiti in the great migration after the 2010 earthquake that killed more than 200,000 people. He was 12 when they left, first for the Dominican Republic, then on to Chile, where he was living with his mother and brother when the coronavirus pandemic hit. Encouraged by relatives in the United States, the family set out on a 4,500-mile trek to the U.S. border — never imagining the road would lead back to the devastated country they left more than a decade ago.
“How could they bring us back here?” he asked. “This is an injustice. I don’t even know where we are going to sleep tonight.”
He mingled with other confused deportees, many of whom hadn’t seen Haiti in years and now spoke Spanish or Portuguese better than Haitian Creole. Several families told The Washington Post that they were never told they were being deported back to Haiti.
“If Biden continues with these deportations, he’s no better than Trump,” Bordes said. “I’m afraid for my safety here. I don’t even know this country anymore.”
They began landing Sunday in a nation that some describe as Somalia of the Caribbean — a failed state suffering a humanitarian emergency that critics say is too dangerous and unstable for the thousands being deported.
Recognition of the conditions led the Biden administration as recently as May to grant temporary protected status to tens of thousands of undocumented Haitians in the United States. At the time, officials cited “serious security concerns, social unrest, an increase in human rights abuses, crippling poverty, and lack of basic resources” in the Western Hemisphere’s poorest nation.
Since then, conditions in Haiti have deteriorated sharply — leading critics to describe the deportations now as contradictory.
Haiti suffered the still unsolved assassination of its president in July and a devastating earthquake that killed 2,200 people and destroyed tens of thousands of homes, schools and churches in August. Violent street gangs have seized neighborhoods and key roads, torching homes and spreading a plague of rapes, kidnappings and killings that have caused thousands of residents to flee.
The government to which the deportees are returning has teetered on the verge of collapse amid an internal power struggle and a judicial request to indict the sitting prime minister in connection to the slaying of President Jovenel Moïse. The United Nations has sounded the alarm over a lack of resources to aid earthquake victims, including thousands of women and children left homeless, in the country’s devastated south.
Some here describe the large-scale deportations back to Haiti as something they might have expected under President Donald Trump, who was dismissive of Haitian immigrants. That it’s happening under President Biden, they said, made it sting even more. “It’s shocking,” said Ralph P. Chevry, a board member of the Haiti Center for Socio Economic Policy in Port-au-Prince. “I understand that the U.S. needs to protect its borders, but the way Haiti is right now, this is the last place to send anyone. The Central Bank has no money left. The gangs are taking over the country. The kidnappings are surging again.
“I wouldn’t say it’s criminal, but what the United States is doing is at the very least inhumane.”
U.S. officials have countered that strong action is needed to deter a surge of desperate migrants traversing the Mexican border into the Texas town of Del Rio. Many are Haitians who fled the country years ago and are now streaming out from South American countries devastated by the coronavirus pandemic.
Haitian authorities said they would do what they could for the deportees, but pointedly said they were being repatriated against their will.
“These people do not accept the forced flight back to Haiti,” Jean Negot Bonheur Delva, head of Haiti’s migration office, told reporters in Port-au-Prince on Sunday, adding that his team expected flights to ramp up to as many as six per day by Tuesday.
“For these people, Haiti is hell,” he said. [. . .]
For full article, see https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/2021/09/19/haiti-deportee-flight-port-au-prince/