Mexico City (CNSNews.com) – Mexican authorities say they have no plans to stop or deport a growing tide of more than 13,000 Haitians who have entered Mexico illegally this year for the purpose of crossing into the U.S.
The number of Haitians entering Mexico illegally in order to reach the U.S. has skyrocketed from 3,263 reported in 2015, to 13,465 so far this year, Mexican immigration officials told CNSNews.com.
By contrast, in 2013 – two years after the Jan. 10, 2010 earthquake in their home country – just 688 Haitians entered Mexico without authorization, they said.
Mexico has issued exit visas at no cost to 13,465 Haitian and African migrants so far this year.
The Mexican officials said that some 4,515 Haitians are currently gathered on the Baja California border – 2,823 in Tijuana and 1,692 in Mexicali.
Fannie Enciso, a spokeswoman for Mexico’s immigration authority, said that state, local, and private organizations are providing housing, food and other support to the Haitians as they wait.
According to Mexican immigration officials some changes to policies had been agreed upon during a visit to Mexico by Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson on Oct. 11.
At Johnson’s meetings with Mexican immigration and security officials, it was agreed that the number of Haitians allowed to cross into the U.S. at checkpoints in Mexicali and San Yisidro would be increased from 35 to 115 each day, Enciso said.
Up to now, Mexico has issued 20-day transit permits to certain migrants from outside the North American continent, including Haitians, who enter the country illegally for the purpose of getting to the United States.
But during Johnson’s visit, Enciso said, Mexico agreed to increase the duration of the transit permits to 30 days.
She added, however, that if the migrants are unable to cross into the U.S. before the permits expire, Mexico has no plans to deport them
The DHS did not respond to multiple requests for comment on the reported agreements.
U.S. Customs and Border Patrol spokesman Ralph DeSio said 4,844 Haitians have been allowed to enter the U.S. from Mexico this year, a six-fold increase from 795 in 2015.
“Recently we have seen an uptick in the number of Haitians arriving with no status in the U.S.,” he said in an email.
“We are processing them on a case-by-case basis. Individuals with no status to legally enter the U.S. are placed in removal proceedings according to their situation and into the custody of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement,” DeSio said.
After the 2010 earthquake, the U.S. partly relaxed its approach to Haitian illegal migrants, releasing them on humanitarian parole. But last month the DHS announced it was resuming the policy of detaining and deporting them.
Then came Hurricane Matthew.
Citing the devastating storm, Johnson shortly after his visit to Mexico said in a statement that the U.S. was again temporarily suspending deportations of Haitians illegally in the U.S.
“On September 22, I announced we would resume removals of Haitian nationals in accordance with our existing enforcement priorities,” he said. “In light of Hurricane Matthew, which struck Haiti on October 4, removal flights to Haiti have been suspended temporarily.”
“Working with the government of Haiti, DHS intends to resume removal flights as soon as possible,” Johnson added.
Another Mexican immigration spokeswoman, Aurora Vega, explained the reasoning behind the 20-day (now 30-day) transit permits.
They were issued to Haitians and certain other migrants – when they voluntarily report to the authorities – for humanitarian reasons, and because Mexico has no established communication procedures or immigration agreements with their countries of origin, she said.
Vega said Haitian migrants are offered the right to seek refuge or asylum in Mexico, but virtually none have done so this year.
Recently U.S. Rep. Duncan Hunter (R-Calif.) accused Mexican authorities of helping the Haitian migrants in their quest to enter the U.S.
He also blamed the Obama administration for the increasing tide of migrants entering Mexico.
Duncan’s press spokesman Joe Kasper told CNSNews.com that the Haitians were “exploiting the system by claiming fear” if they return to Haiti.
“We’d expect the removal of any migrant – to include Haitians – attempting to enter the U.S. without authorization. It’s not like any coming up through Mexico have authorization in the first place – so we’ll need to watch closely how DHS responds.”