Evens Delva crossed the Rio Grande with his wife and two daughters with the dream of starting a new life in Florida. Less than a week later, he and his family were treading the asphalt of Port-au-Prince, the suffocating and chaotic capital of Haiti, with nothing but bitter memories and a feeling of rage on the surface.
The head of the Mexican Commission for Refugees, before the arrival of thousands of Haitians: “The situation has overwhelmed us”
Delva, along with nearly 2,000 other Haitians, was deported to Haiti this week from the southern state of Texas, despite having lived in Chile for the past six years and having few connections to his home country. Their youngest four-year-old daughter does not have Haitian nationality, as she was born in Chile, and her Spanish is better than her Haitian Creole.
“I do not know what we are going to do, we have nowhere to stay or who to call,” explains the 40-year-old man, moments after getting off the plane, amid the suffocating Caribbean heat. “I just know that this is the last place I want to be.”
It is not difficult to understand why. Haiti, the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere, is mired in overlapping crises. Gasoline shortages and blackouts are a daily reality, while rival street gangs systematically kidnap for ransom and fight in the streets.
The situation worsened when Jovenel Moïse, the president, was assassinated at his home on July 7, triggering a struggle for political power, and further instability and street violence. On August 14, a 7.2 magnitude earthquake shook the poor southern peninsula of the country, with more than 2,200 fatalities and tens of thousands of homeless people.
The decision by US President Joe Biden to deport thousands of Haitians in such circumstances has drawn worldwide rejection and prompted the US envoy to Haiti to resign in protest. Haiti is “a country in which US officials live confined in enclosures due to the danger posed by the armed gangs that control daily life,” he wrote in his resignation letter. “Increased migration to our borders will only increase the unacceptable misery of Haiti,” he said.
Last week, the world was shocked by images of US mounted police officers charging desperate Haitian migrants near a 12,000-strong camp under the border bridge in Del Rio, Texas, and Ciudad Acuña, Coahuila. Indeed, Delva was on his way to buy food and water for his family when the cavalry charge sent him and dozens of his compatriots running in disarray.
“They cornered us as if we were cattle and chained us like criminals,” he explains, after having spent the six-hour flight from San Antonio with his hands and legs tied. “They treated us like animals”, laments María, his wife. “We will never forget how we have felt.”
An Angolan deported to Haiti
The US authorities were so clumsy in their deportation of the emigrants that they also dragged out an Angolan who had never set foot in Haiti. “I told them I’m not Haitian,” says Belone Mpembele, leaving the terminal, stunned: “But they didn’t listen to me.”
Outside the airport, several dozen deported Haitians waited, restless and angry, for help. “Fuck Biden!” A deportee yelled as two motorcycle taxi drivers fought over customers. Plumes of smelly white smoke billowed out of a burning pile of garbage.
Each deportee received about $ 50 in cash, as well as a hygiene kit with toilet paper, soap and a toothbrush, bearing the USAID logo and the slogan: “A gift from the American people.”
“This is my country and it does not scare me, but it is a country without a future, even if you want to work,” says Fanfan Clerveaux, who since arriving a few days ago has been sleeping in the house of a close cousin. “I don’t understand why they had to deport us like this.”
From Chile and Brazil
The vast majority of deportees had lived in Chile and Brazil for several years after the 2010 earthquake, which devastated much of Port-au-Prince, killed more than 200,000 people and plunged Haiti into a spiral of instability from which it has never recovered. .
Those who came to South America tried to rebuild their lives, but when the COVID-19 pandemic wiped out many jobs for Latin America’s working and middle class, they fell back into poverty. It was then that many Haitians decided to head to the United States. The long route north exposes them to bandits, smugglers and immigration officials who prey on migrants.
Perhaps the worst part of the trip is the dreaded Paso del Darien, a lawless mountainous jungle area between Colombia and Panama. “Along the way you come across a lot of corpses, and the rivers engulf a lot of people,” says Delva. “And then there are the thieves, who rob everyone who passes by.”
After the last plane of the day arrived, a young woman pushed her way through a crowd of taxi drivers and burst into tears when she saw her mother, from whom she was separated in Texas: “You are here!”
Further back, a driver listened to the news on the radio and learned of another kidnapping in the capital, as the Delva family began to pile into a battered van.
“I don’t know if Biden knows what happened to us, but they treated us like objects,” says Delva. Despite how traumatic this trip has been, he is very sure that the future of his family is not in Haiti: “We will stay a month, more or less, and then we will try again.”