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The Journal Gazette

September 23, 2016 1:00 AM

New stance on Haitians coming to US from Brazil

Associated Press

SAN DIEGO – The U.S. Department of Homeland Security said Thursday that it is widening efforts to deport Haitians, a response to thousands of immigrants from the Caribbean nation who have overwhelmed California border crossings with Mexico in recent months.

The move lifts special protections that shielded Haitians from deportation after their nation’s 2010 earthquake. Since 2011, U.S. authorities have avoided deporting Haitians unless they were convicted of serious crimes or posed a national security threat. Now they will be treated like people from other countries.

Secretary Jeh Johnson said the new posture doesn’t apply to Haitians who got temporary status to live and work in the U.S. after the earthquake and have remained in the country since January 2011.

The change may dramatically affect Haitians who have been showing up at U.S. border crossings in California, claiming they lived in Brazil for several years, left for economic reasons, and traveled through Central America and Mexico.

Homeland Security officials say about 5,000 Haitians have been stopped at San Diego’s San Ysidro port of entry since October, compared with only 339 for the 2015 fiscal year. Large numbers have also turned themselves in to U.S. inspectors in Calexico, California, 120 miles east of San Diego.

The influx is so heavy that inspectors at San Ysidro, the nation’s busiest border crossing, are turning back Haitians with appointments to come at a later date, leaving hundreds waiting in Tijuana, Mexico.

The Rev. Pat Murphy, director of Casa del Migrante in Tijuana, said Haitians arriving at the San Diego crossing on Wednesday wouldn’t get an appointment until Oct. 12. His shelter now houses 1,000 people a month, up from 600 before the Haitians began arriving.

“We’ve opened the doors and sometimes we’ve opened the floors so people can have a place to sleep,” Murphy said at a news conference Wednesday at San Diego’s Christ United Methodist Church, which has provided food, clothing and temporary shelter over the last few months to about 3,000 Haitians after they arrived in the U.S.

Murphy said 90 percent of the people who have come to his shelter in the last six weeks are Haitians who moved to Brazil after the 2010 earthquake.