In what could be the start of an impending humanitarian crisis, a group of more than 500 Haitian refugees is now walking through Mexico and heading toward the U.S., where they hope to seek asylum and shelter from the terrible conditions in their poverty-stricken homeland — especially in the wake of a 7.2-magnitude earthquake.
The Associated Press has reported that on Friday, Sept. 17, an even larger group — which had been on buses — was ordered to stop their journey by Mexican Immigration officials. However, authorities said many refused the order and continued their journey to the U.S. border on foot.
According to the AP, “immigration agents and National Guard officers stopped the buses at a highway checkpoint near the town of San Fernando, about 120 miles (200 kilometers) south of the Texas border.”
AP reported that even though “Mexico has turned back Haitian migrants trying to walk through southern Mexico,” an estimated “8,000 to 12,000 people, mainly Haitians, have already walked across the Rio Grande River and have assembled under and around a bridge in the small Texas border town of Del Rio.”
While some migrants within the group have been in the northern Mexico town for weeks or even months, most of those gathered there are more recent arrivals.
“The migrants stopped in Tamaulipas told local media they had boarded about 15 buses in the city of Poza Rica, Veracruz, and were headed to Reynosa, Tamaulipas, across the border from McAllen, Texas,” AP reported.
The Mexican government estimates that more than 19,000 Haitians have traveled from South America and into the country in the past year, with most applying for asylum or refugee status. Ultimately, many hope to end their journey in the U.S., where they dream of starting a new life.
But that plan could be tricky. Immigration continues to be a contentious issue within the U.S. government, with Democrats pushing for reform and improved programs to make the transition easier for those in need of U.S. asylum and assistance. Most conservatives, however, resist that idea and want to make it harder for people of color to immigrate into the United States.
On Sunday, Sept. 19, Democrats suffered another blow when the Senate parliamentarian ruled that immigration reform initiatives (including a pathway to legalization for millions of immigrants) could not be part of the Democrat’s upcoming $3.5-trillion bill designed to expand the country’s social safety net.
With an equally divided Senate, it seems increasingly unlikely that President Biden and the White House will pass any sort of significant immigration reform in the coming months if the program is omitted from this economic plan.