As news of U.S. flights to Haiti spreads, migrants worry where to go

CIUDAD ACUÑA, Mexico, Sept. 18 (Reuters) – Eddyson Langlais, 24, was huddled under the Del Rio international bridge in Texas, alongside thousands of other Haitian migrants on Friday night, when he saw news on Facebook that sounded like a punch: The United States was going to send Haitians back to their homeland.

He immediately called his parents in Port-au-Prince, who live in a small house with several other cousins ​​in the Haitian capital. His father, a taxi driver who can no longer work since his car broke down, and his mother, who sells bread in the street, have not mince words.

“If they kick you out, you’re going to live in poverty,” they told Langlais.

Langlais spoke to his wife, fellow Haitian Lovelie Exantus, whom he had met when they both lived in a poor Haitian-dominated neighborhood in Santiago, Chile. Langlais worked as a welder, earning about $ 300 a month, part of which he sent back to his family in Haiti.

Exantus didn’t know what to do either. They lay down, but Langlais couldn’t sleep at all while awake under the bridge over the Rio Grande that connects Ciudad Acuña, Mexico, to Del Rio, Texas.

The US Department of Homeland Security said on Saturday it was facing an influx of migrants, mostly Haitians, to Del Rio in part by speeding up deportation flights to Haiti and other destinations in the next 72 hours. . DHS said the Biden administration was working with countries where migrants started their journey – for many Haitian countries such as Brazil and Chile – to accept return migrants.

Many Haitian migrants awaiting treatment fled long ago to avoid poverty at home, where the economy has been devastated by earthquakes, the coronavirus pandemic and political unrest. The Caribbean island is the poorest in the Western Hemisphere.

On Saturday morning, on the Mexican side – migrants made the crossing to Mexico to stock up and to Texas to await treatment, Langlais weighed what to do.

“It is I who support my family. If I go home, we will starve,” he said.

But Mexico, he said, didn’t have a life for him either. He tried to find work in Tapachula in September, in the south near the Guatemalan border, when he first arrived. Supermarkets turned him away, he said, because he did not have proper work papers. Getting them would have taken months because officials continued to move appointments, Langlais said. “If I have to wait months for the paper, I’m going to die.”

Langlais, who spoke English, said he had worked as an informal interpreter for missionaries in Haiti. He said he yearned to go to the United States to study welding.

Holding two bags of sandwich bread he had just bought on the Mexican side, Langlais hesitated for a few minutes under the blazing sun, before making up his mind.

“I think I’m going to go to America. I’m going to pray to God, because that has power.”

Reporting by Alexandra Ulmer; Editing by Donna Bryson and Diane Craft

Our Standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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