McALLEN, Texas (Border Report) — Thousands of Haitian migrants recently trekked to the Mexican border town of Nuevo Laredo, hoping to claim asylum in the United States if Title 42 is lifted, although many have already given up and left, Border Report has learned.
U.S. Rep. Henry Cuellar, a Democrat whose hometown of Laredo is across the border, said Wednesday that about 3,500 Haitian asylum-seekers have arrived in Nuevo Laredo, and are still in the city.
However, Rebecca Solloa, executive director of Catholic Charities Diocese of Laredo, told Border Report that about 1,400, mostly Haitian men, recently left Nuevo Laredo for the industrial city of Monterrey, the capital of the state of Nuevo León, where they hope to find work. She said the women and children were left at the shelters in Nuevo Laredo.
El Diario de Nuevo Laredo reports that the 1,400 left in buses this past weekend.
Nuevo Laredo, where street gunfights among rival drug cartel groups regularly occur, is not a typical migration point for asylum-seekers.
Solloa, who lives in Nuevo Laredo herself, said the arrival of Haitian migrants is highly unusual.
She said since they began arriving at the end of April she has seen hundreds of Haitians living on the streets and on sidewalks outside the city’s few migrant shelters, seeking assistance.
“We didn’t expect this. I didn’t expect Haitians to arrive in Nuevo Laredo,” Solloa said Wednesday via phone.
“We don’t receive a lot of migrants coming to Nuevo Laredo,” she said. “It’s a rare incident for that type of caravan or that large of a group to show up in Nuevo Laredo.”
On the other hand, caravans of thousands of Haitian asylum-seekers crossed the border from Ciudad Acuña into Del Rio, Texas, in September, causing the closure of the international bridge there.
More recently, Haitian migrants have started arriving at the Humanitarian Respite Center in McAllen, Texas, while thousands more reportedly are living across that part of the border in Reynosa, Mexico, hoping to migrate should Title 42 be lifted.
Title 42 is the public health order for the past two years has allowed border agents to immediately expel newly arrived migrants to prevent cross-border spread of COVID-19. It has also kept U.S. ports of entry off-limits to asylum-seekers.
Solloa’s organization has sent personal protective equipment to help several shelters in Nuevo Laredo, including hand sanitizer, gloves and wipes. She also has sent money for them to buy toiletry items.
The Catholic bishop for the Diocese of Nuevo Laredo reportedly issued an appeal for help on April 29, asking for toiletry items, masks, medicine and other donated goods to help the Haitians as they suddenly appeared in the city of 425,000.
Hydration stations have been set up at area shelters, according to El Diario.
Solloa said that the majority who arrived did not understand the complexities of the Title 42 health law that has been in place since March 2020 to prevent the spread of coronavirus across borders.
She said that they soon realized that if they tried to cross, they would be sent back to Mexico via Title 42, or be deported back to Haiti in some instances.
The International Organization for Migration reports that from Jan. 1, 2021, through Feb. 26, 2022, a total of 25,765 people were expelled or deported to Haiti. The majority, nearly 80%, were returned by the United States, according to Catholic News Service.
Giulia McPherson, director of advocacy and operations at the Washington, D.C.-based nonprofit Jesuit Refugee Service/USA, recently visited the southern border town of Tapachula, Mexico, and the northern Mexican border town of Tijuana and attended a conference on Haitian migration patterns.
“It’s been an ongoing evolution of Haitian migration since the 2010 earthquake pointing the spotlight on the fact that most of these Haitians are not newly arriving. They have been in the region for several years, first making their way to Latin American countries like Chile and Brazil,” McPherson told Border Report on Wednesday. “But in the course of the past number of years there has been increased xenophobia and a declining economy, and many have been increasingly making their way north through Darién Gap in Panama and now into Mexico.”
“Many articulated to us their dream was to come to the United States but they do acknowledge the reality and the challenges and the barriers placed before them to try to make an asylum claim in the United States,” McPherson said.
A great many are petitioning for asylum in Mexico, she said. But others are moving north to try to cross into the United States if Title 42 is lifted.
There are an estimated 10,000 Black migrants, including Haitian asylum-seekers, currently living in Tijuana, McPherson said. They are hoping to cross, like the Ukrainians recently did, and are confused by the various exceptions to U.S. immigration laws for different groups of people.
Solloa runs a shelter in Laredo, called La Frontera, which can hold 150 migrants overnight and 500 during the day. A second respite center for men can house 70 overnight and 250 per day, she said.
So the maximum they can currently help is 750 migrants in Laredo, per day. But they could be overwhelmed if thousands more are allowed to cross into Laredo if Title 42 is lifted on May 23, which the Biden administration wants to do.
Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas has said that if Title 42 is lifted, migrants still must qualify to enter the United States, and those who do not will be sent back under Title 8 orders.
However, it is still uncertain whether the order will be lifted in a couple weeks because there are several court challenges to it, one of which will be heard Friday in a federal court in Louisiana.
“People are just looking for safety and trying to seek that safety in whatever way they can. Hopefully, Title 42 will terminate on May 23 and those seeking asylum in the United States will be able to petition in a safe and effective manner on the U.S. border,” McPherson said.