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  • Writer's pictureLauren Jessop

The answer to the question many are asking: How did Haitians get to Mexico?

Updated: Aug 9, 2022

The crisis that climaxed last week with 15,000 illegal aliens, mostly from Haiti, descending upon Del Rio, Texas has many people asking the question “How did people from Haiti get to Mexico?”

We were going to include the answer to the question, “Why are so many Haitians showing up now and in such large numbers,” but that topic is large enough to deserve its own article.

First, some background. In July, Haiti’s president was assassinated, but the country was already unstable. Haiti’s economic, political and social issues have deepened recently, with gang violence spiking in the capital of Port-au-Prince, inflation spiraling, and food and fuel becoming scarcer in a country where 60% of the population makes less than $2 a day. These troubles come as Haiti is still trying to recover from the devastating 2010 earthquake and Hurricane Matthew that struck in 2016.

Haitians began attempting to enter the U.S. in the 1980s by sea, but most were cut off by the Coast Guard, and these attempts waned after a Supreme Court decision lifted an injunction that barred repatriations of Haitian exiles in 1992.

After a devastating earthquake in 2010, 250,000 Haitians fled their homeland and settled in South America. The goal for many is to reach the U.S. in order to find better jobs. Most recently, the pandemic has put a squeeze on regional economies, enticing migrants to move northward.

Many Haitians reach the U.S. border on a well-worn route: they fly to Brazil, Chile, or elsewhere in South America, making their way to Colombia where they begin the dangerous trek through the Darien Gap, a vast wilderness that separates Colombia and Panama.

Once through the Darien Gap, the trip through Central America entails traveling through Panama, Costa Rica, Nicaragua, Honduras, Guatemala, and finally reaching the southern border of Mexico.

This is not a “point A to point B” express trip. These migrants stay in one place, sometimes for months or years, if there is work for them before moving on.

Last month, Michael Yon, an experienced war correspondent that has been tracking the migrant crisis appeared on Epoch TV providing details on the routes taken. He says many Cubans and Haitians start off in Suriname, a small country on the northeastern Atlantic coast of South America.

They go to Suriname because they don’t need a visa. They’ll go there and then from there, they’ll take a bus to either Brazil or Ecuador and they get up to Columbia and cross. So they’ll either go to Suriname, Brazil or Ecuador to begin with because they can get visas on arrival,” Yon said.

Yon describes Darien Gap as “the ultimate wall.” If you are fit and the weather is in your favor, you can get through it in four days if you don’t get lost. Most people take at least seven days, and he says that at least 10 percent of those who attempt the trip will perish doing so.

There are no roads in the Darien Gap. It is a rainforest, and there are mountains and dangerous rivers to navigate. Many migrants die from waterborne diseases, get washed away in flash floods, or are robbed, raped, or murdered along the way.

Another location that has become a popular starting point is the Colombian town of Necocli, a small city on Colombia’s Caribbean shore, where migrants catch ferry rides to the Panama border and begin their trip through the Darien Gap.

Necocli has become a bottleneck on the global migrant trail. In July, a local official estimated that more than 10,000 migrants had arrived in the city which has a total population of 20,000. The ferries taking people to Panama can only carry about 750 per day, which is half of the 1,500 that have been arriving daily.

Funding for Haitian migrants may come from relatives already in the United States. Oftentimes, they pay human smugglers thousands of dollars to get them from Haiti to Brazil, and then on to Chile where many settled over the years.

The BBC reported in 2020, that Chilean officials had knowledge of “companies in Port-au-Prince that were dedicated to telling Haitians’ ‘sell your house, sell everything you have, pay us three thousand dollars and we give you a work contract in Chile.’”

Technology has also played a big part in leading Haitian migrants to Texas. For the final leg of his journey from Chile to the United States, Haitian migrant Fabricio Jean followed detailed instructions sent to him via WhatsApp from his brother in New Jersey who had recently taken the route to the Texas border.

His brother wired him money for the trip, and meticulously mapped it out, warning him of areas heavy with Mexican immigration officials.

“You will need about 20,000 pesos (about $1,000 U.S. dollars) for the buses. You need to take this bus to this location and then take another bus,” recounted Jean, who spoke to The Associated Press after reaching the border town of Del Rio.

Once migrants reach Mexico’s southern border they may be forced to pay smugglers who use cars or cargo trucks to transport them, or travel on foot, and others take buses or use the Mexican freight train system known as “The Beast” or “el tren de la muerte,” (the train of death).

The use of any of these modes of transportation comes with risks. Migrants smuggled in trucks are subjected to extreme temperatures and those traveling by foot have succumbed to dehydration and injuries. The men are robbed, the women are raped, and many who have chosen the trains have either been killed or have lost limbs after mishaps while climbing on, jumping off, or falling off.

So there you have it.

Originally published Citizen Stringer, September 27, 2021

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