Haitians hoping to reach the US are stuck in Chile, across the Americas

SANTIAGO, Chile — Conservative candidate in Presidential vote on SundayJosé Antonio Kast, has pledged to block what he calls a migrant invasion if he wins the election. His left-wing opponent, Gabriel Boric, said that if he became Chile’s president, he would end the deportation of illegal migrants and provide foreigners with a path to legalize their status.

The conservative Mr. Kast blames migrants for crimes and proposes building trenches at the border to keep migrants out—even from Venezuela—And set up a special police force to deport illegal immigrants.

“Our commitment is clear: close our borders and speed up the deportation of illegal immigrants,” he said on Twitter.

About 400 Haitian families have built small, tin-roofed houses without running water on the outskirts of Santiago, Batuco, calling the neighborhood Villa Dignidad, or Dignity.


A street inside Villa Dignidad. French and Creole speakers live in this poor neighborhood working odd jobs during the week.

Mr Boric has so far led in the polls, but there are many undecided voters, and analysts say it is unclear whether the young Chileans he needs to win. appear on election day.

The livelihood of Haitian migrants like Laurent Odler may depend on the outcome of the election. He arrived as a tourist and got a temporary permit four years ago, when then-President Michelle Bachelet opened the doors of Latin America’s most prosperous country to more than 200,000 Haitians.

But since then, he and many other Haitians here have been unable to obtain legal residency as the requirements to stay here have become increasingly stricter under her successor, President Sebastián Piñera, conservative businessman. took office in 2018.

Migrants lost their jobs in epidemic also show that they cannot extend their visa without a work contract. Many people are unable to renew their national ID card, which is needed for everything from renting an apartment to opening a bank account. Meanwhile, public attitudes in Chile are against migration, polls show and migration laws have been tightened.


Expired Chilean ID card of a family of three living in Villa Dignidad.

That left Mr Odler stuck working legally undocumented at a composting plant, where he blamed his breathing problems on a lack of safety equipment.

For now, he has ruled out leaving Chile for the US after watching some of his countrymen here embark on a treacherous hike north only to be left in limbo in Mexico. Returning home to Haiti is unquestionable as one of the world’s poorest countries sinks deeper into chaos after the assassination of the president in July.

“I was stuck,” Mr. Odler said from his home in a poor neighborhood on the outskirts of Santiago.

Many Haitians fled their country in the following years 2010 earthquake is currently leaving an area where governments are toughening immigration policies. Brazil attracts about 150,000 Haitians between 2015 and 2020 and have also struggled to integrate, with many of them going to Chile.

That has caused many migrants, most of whom are struggling with economic trouble caused by coronavirus pandemic, which is essentially stateless, faces a dead end and is uncertain what will happen next.


Guests watch a Haitian couple’s wedding reception taking place inside a house in Villa Dignidad in November.


A Haitian immigrant waits for guests to attend her wedding in Villa Dignidad in November.

Immigration experts say Chile’s inability to integrate foreigners after their arrival has had the dire consequences of leaving most Haitians on the fringes of society, and causing thousands of others to give up and pack their bags. to America.

“If you don’t have [a valid ID]”You can’t do anything,” said Charlancia Remy, a Haitian who works at a municipal office in Santiago, helping migrants access public services. “When you open the door for an immigrant to come into the country, but then you don’t provide the necessary paperwork for them to stay in the country, you’re essentially telling them to leave.”

The problem for the United States is that if Mr. Kast wins Sunday — and keeps his pledge to weed out illegal migrants — many of them could head north again, experts say.

“If Kast wins and he actually does some of the things on his program, then I imagine that there will be a significant number of immigrants who feel threatened enough to leave Chile,” said Cristián Doña- Reveco, a Chilean immigration expert at the University. of Nebraska.


Marie Toussaint, wife of Laurent Odler, in their house in Villa Dignidad in November.

More than 47,000 Haitians were detained at the southern U.S. border in fiscal year 2021, ending September — up from 4,500 in 2020 and 2,000 in 2019, according to Customs and Border Protection. United States world. Most of the people who make the trip live in Chile or Brazil.

The Biden administration, caught off guard first the arrival of up to 16,000 Haitians in Del Rio, Texas, in September, currently using Trump-era policies such as Remain in Mexico program, which allows officials to deport migrants to Mexico, or pandemic-era policy, Title 42, to deport them on flights to Haiti without a chance to seek asylum.

Many people have not lived in Haiti for many years. Chile has now refused to accept the flights of Haitians deported from the US

Others have reached as far as Mexico and are trying to apply for asylum so they can move freely and continue to the US. Mexico has seen a record 123,000 asylum claims so far this year, led by Haitians, who account for nearly 40% of all cases. Enrique Vidal, of the Fray Matías de Córdova Center for Human Rights, a non-profit that advocates for migrants in Mexico, said most of those claims are likely to be refuted because the majority of Haitians are immigrants. economic residence. He hopes Mexico will eventually deport them back to Haiti.


Migrants attend a Sunday church service in Batuco, Chile, in November.

Among those stranded in Mexico is 30-year-old Karl Fenix. He said that he would stay in Chile if there was no possibility to extend his visa. Instead, he left for America in August with his pregnant girlfriend, Maritza, hiking in the woods and withstanding three burglaries.

Currently in the southern Mexican border town of Tapachula, the couple spend days waiting for asylum requests to be sent to the Mexican government, and then plan to reach the US border.

They have little money left, and Mr. Fenix ​​now works selling clothes to other Haitians to survive. Mr. Fenix ​​said he was devastated when the Biden administration began deporting Haitians to their home countries, but prayed he would be allowed into the US.

“You have to have faith,” he said. “I don’t want my baby to be born here.”


Widken Maxeus outside his home in Villa Dignidad in November.

The increase in Haitian and Venezuelan migrants has led Chileans to take a tougher stance on immigration. An October poll by Cadem said 56% of Chileans view immigration as bad for the country, up from 31% in 2018. About 70% of Chileans support tougher immigration laws, the poll found know.

Chile is not alone in that experience. In Europe, which has seen a rise in anti-immigration political movements, countries that have seen a large increase in immigration between 1988 and 2017 have faced a backlash. short-lived public outcry against foreigners, according to a July study published by the University of Cambridge. Research shows that that hostility towards immigrants fades after about a decade as people get used to changing demographics.

Widken Maxeus arrived in Chile from Haiti in 2016 and took a job two days later at a beer company. He says he feels there is a future here for his family, including a baby girl born in Chile.

He then loses his job during the pandemic, forcing the family to move to a dusty pub inhabited by struggling Haitians. Away from the city’s trendy restaurants and posh apartments, some 400 Haitian families have built small, tin-roofed houses near the edge of the tracks, calling the neighborhood Villa Dignidad, or Dignity .


A father carries his child across the Rio Grande River in Mexico towards Del Rio, Texas, in September.


Fernando Llano / Associated Press

In recent months, Maxeus has watched about 100 Haitian families in his neighborhood flee to the United States. Mr. Maxeus also thought about leaving for the US, but ultimately decided it was too dangerous.

Today, the exodus of Haitians from Chile has stopped, officials and migrants say, because people fear they will be deported back to Haiti. In Villa Dignidad, French and Creole speakers do odd jobs during the week and go to church on Sundays. Recently, they held a neighbor’s wedding, dancing and laughing as the pop music blew.

“They will stay until there is another chance to leave,” Mr. Maxeus said.

When the United States began sending hundreds of migrants from Texas to Haiti in late September, border patrol officers on horseback tried to prevent others from crossing the Rio Grande into the United States. The Biden administration has said it is partially closing the border with Mexico. Photo: John Moore / Getty Images (Video from September 20, 21)

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https://www.wsj.com/articles/haitians-hoping-to-reach-u-s-stranded-in-chile-across-americas-11639753203 Haitians hoping to reach the US are stuck in Chile, across the Americas

Ethan Gach

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