Haitians Pretend to Be Africans to Make Their Way to the U.S.

By Kausha Luna on August 4, 2016

Forty-five Haitians claiming to be African arrived in Tijuana last week, to then make their way to the United States.

The 45 Haitians were part of a group of 52 that were given a 30-day transit permit by Mexico's National Institute for Migration (INM). The permits were granted after the migrants were found on the side of the road in Sonora, where their smuggler abandoned them after their bus crashed.

Wednesday's headline read, "52 African migrants rescued in the desert", followed by the subheading, "Bus driver abandoned them after an accident; INM granted them a permit to travel freely". The following day it came to light that the migrants had lied about their Haitian nationality and identified themselves as Africans to the authorities. The director of the House for Migrants, Patrick Murphy, said that "migrants have learnt to lie about their nationality while in transit through Mexico to the United States, and the country which gives them more of a possibility to be granted political asylum is Africa." A representative of the Coalition for the Defense of Migrants, a partner of Serving Hands International, stated that the majority of Haitians that arrive in Tijuana claim to be from places like Congo and Senegal to facilitate their entry into the United States.

The Coalition for the Defense of Migrants has also stated that the number of asylum seekers arriving to Tijuana has been on the rise since 2013. Murphy attributes the increase in Haitian arrivals to a lucrative smuggling industry brining Haitians to Tijuana. He also believes that the INM is granting the 30-day transit permits without questioning the migrants because they don't want to absorb the cost of deportations. Instead, they are allowing them to reach Tijuana so the cost is absorbed by the U.S. authorities.

A delegate from INM estimates that, since May 26, approximately 4,000 people have arrived in Tijuana to then ask for asylum at the U.S. port of entry at San Ysidro. Approximately 60 percent are Mexican nationals and 40 percent are foreigners, the majority of whom are Haitian. U.S. Customs and Border Protection officials estimate that 50 percent of asylum-seekers arriving at San Ysidro are Mexican citizens, and they get as many as 100 asylum-seekers per day in the pedestrian line. The detention capacity is 400, so their facilities have reached full capacity. As a result, the shelters in Tijuana are saturated with the most diverse group of migrants they have ever received – Mexicans, Haitians, Ghanaians, Ethiopians, Afghans, and Pakistanis – all waiting to make their asylum claim in the United States.

One question remains: Will U.S. authorities be fooled by and/or wave through the Haitians who lied about being Africans, as the Mexican authorities have done?