Many Haitians Choosing to Stay in Mexico

As Haitians in the United States receive an extension of their Temporary Protected Status (TPS), those in Mexico have begun to establish themselves in Tijuana and abandon their intentions to cross to the United States.

In 2016, the number of Haitian arrivals at the U.S. southwest border swelled. The majority made their way north from Brazil to take advantage of lax immigration enforcement. However, after the Obama administration reinstated Haitian deportations and President Trump took office, the number of Haitians seeking asylum in the United States dropped dramatically.

A Mexican newswire indicates that the majority of Haitians have integrated themselves into the everyday life of Mexico’s northern border, and only a minority have chosen to return home. Approximately 4,000 Haitians are in Tijuana. An estimated 2,800 of them have begun the regularization process, but only 1,200 have been able to secure documents to legally stay in the country. An additional 500 Haitians are still in the process of regularizing their stay. The Mexican government expects these migrants to regularize their stay in a timely manner, and expects this process to be done by September of this year. Those who fail to resolve their migratory situation will be deported back to Haiti.

These regularization efforts coincide with Mexico’s 2017 amnesty program. In October of last year, Mexico’s National Institute for Migration (INM) announced its Temporary Immigration Regularization Program (PTRM), which launched in January of this year, ”to support all foreigners who, regardless of their nationality, do not have a regular migratory stay and have made Mexico their permanent place of residence for the well-being of their family.” PTRM benefits illegal aliens who entered Mexico before January 9, 2015. The program provides them with the status of temporary resident for four years and then permanent residence. The program also allows for work permits to be granted. This year’s PTRM is scheduled to end on December 19, 2017.

A researcher from El Colegio de la Frontera Norte, a prestigious Mexican institute of higher education, specializing in teaching and research in the socials sciences with a focus on border issues, notes that these Haitians consider themselves economic migrants, a self-applied term, and do not want handouts or to be treated as people that want to receive food. The researcher, Dr. Aracely Amaraz, adds that this group of Haitians is earning their living by completing tasks they know how to perform. These migrants have begun to introduce Haitian cuisine to the region, acquiring cooking positions in restaurants. Others have incorporated themselves into other productive sectors by working in gas stations, shops, and other service jobs. The maquiladora industry has also expressed its intention to hire the Haitians once they meet the requirements that are required for an alien to work in Mexico — in other words, once they have a work permit.

In addition to their economic integration, Haitian migrants have begun to enroll their children in schools in Tijuana. Some have also expressed their desire to continue their university studies in Tijuana, once they have regularized their stay in the country.

On Monday, Secretary of Homeland Security John F. Kelly announced his decision to extend the TPS designation for Haiti for an additional six months. This extension is effective from July 23, 2017, through January 22, 2018.

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