The New Look of Immigration: Haitians Opt for Mexico Instead of the US

Far from home, Haitians build new lives in Tijuana

*There’s an interesting situation going on in Mexico of all places. In Tijuana, immigrants from Haiti have found a welcoming home and have set up what appears to be a small, but growing community on it’s way to sustaining itself, reports the San Diego Union:

For John Arold Lazarre, the plan was to migrate to Miami, to join his aunts, uncles and cousins there. He would build a new life in the United States and send money home to his young son and widowed mother in La Gonâve, Haiti.

Tijuana? That was never his dream.

But now a year after arriving at Mexico’s northern border, the 29-year-old migrant has no plans to move away. “I never want to go anywhere illegally again,” Lazarre said one night last week as he prepared for an overnight shift helping guide airplanes at Tijuana’s A.L.Rodríguez International Airport.

Lazarre is one of more than 3,000 Haitians who are living in Baja California, the result of an unprecedented migratory phenomenon that brought thousands of Haitians to the San Diego border in 2016.

The majority today are quietly integrating into the city, though their presence has hardly gone unnoticed in a country where only a tiny percentage of the population is of African descent.

Across Tijuana, they can be seen pumping gas, peddling fruit, washing cars. They’re working on construction sites, in hotel restaurants, on factory production lines. They’re attending Creole-language church services, eating in the handful of modest Haitian restaurants.

“They are people who are not easily defeated,” said Gustavo Banda, a pastor who is housing some 60 Haitians at Templo Embajadores de Jesus, an evangelical church in Tijuana’s hardscrabble Cañon del Alacran. “I can see that in a very short time, they are learning the language. I think they’re are going to adapt very quickly.

They Really Wanted to immigrate to the US

The  majority of the adult men are in their 20s, 30s and 40s and many now separated from their families. Some have wives and children who were able to cross the United States, and many have still families in Haiti who are counting on their support. They arrived in Tijuana last year, most by way of Brazil , where they had found work following Haiti’s devastating earthquake of January 2010.

But as Brazil’s economy suffered a major downturn, even low-paying jobs became scarce. So many Haitians began leaving for the U.S. border. Traveling for months by bus and foot, they took a dangerous land journey that cost thousands of dollars, presenting themselves at the San Ysidro Port of Entry.

By May 2016, their numbers had become notable as hundreds anxiously crowded the busy port. They were typically granted humanitarian parole, a temporary status that allowed them into the United States while an immigration judge considered their petition.

But on Sept. 22, 2016, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security put a halt to the policy, and those Haitians who persisted in seeking admittance instead faced detention and swift deportation to their country. As that reality set in, Haitians like Lazarre who had yet to cross reconsidered their options—and opted to stay in Mexico.

Get the rest of this story at the San Diego Union.

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