Facing an influx of undocumented Haitian migrants arriving at the U.S. southern border with Mexico and a lack of jail space, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security said Wednesday that it would step up deportations to Haiti in the coming weeks.
“Recently, we have seen an increase in the numbers of those apprehended on the southern border. I have instructed our border security and immigration enforcement personnel to take steps to keep pace with this increase,” Homeland Secretary Jeh Johnson said.
Earlier this month, U.S. immigration officials decided to release some Haitians arriving in California and Arizona because of a lack of beds in detention facilities. The number of available beds is between 31,000 and 34,000.
In the last several weeks, about 200 Haitians have been deported to Haiti. There are currently 41,000 individuals in immigration detention centers. About 4,400 are Haitian nationals.
The resumption of deportation flights will not affect Haitian nationals currently covered by Temporary Protected Status (TPS). These individuals will remain eligible for employment authorization. TPS for Haitian nationals has been extended through July 22, 2017.
The Embassy of Haiti in Washington, D.C., is encouraging family members seeking information on detained relatives to contact its hotline: 202-549-8712.
On Sept. 22, Homeland Security ended a six-year moratorium on non-criminal deportations to Haiti, citing “improved conditions in Haiti” since the country’s devastating Jan. 12, 2010, earthquake and “a significant increase” in the number of Haitian nationals taking a dangerous smuggling route from Brazil to the Southwest border in San Diego, California.
Deportation flights were temporarily suspended after Hurricane Matthew made landfall in Haiti on Oct. 4 as a Category 4 storm. The flights were resumed days before the U.S. presidential election.
On Sunday, Haiti finally held its long-awaited presidential rerun elections. Officials are still tallying the votes, and preliminary results could come as soon as Monday.