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Editorial: Biden right to respond to Haitian border surge
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EDITORIAL

Editorial: Biden right to respond to Haitian border surge

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The scenes from the border are dire and heart-rending. More than 14,000 migrants, most of them Haitians, crowded under and near a bridge in a makeshift camp. Women gave birth among the squalor. Men and children waded through the Rio Grande to Mexico for food, clean water and diapers.

The wave of migrants, many fleeing poverty and political instability, overwhelmed authorities in the small community of Del Rio. Given the untenable situation and the realities of the pandemic, the Biden administration is right to use its authority to return migrants on charter flights.

The Department of Homeland Security said this weekend that it was working with “source and transit countries” to accept people who previously lived in those countries. It appears that many of the migrants who arrived in Del Rio had left homes in Brazil and Chile, where tens of thousands of Haitians resettled after a catastrophic earthquake in 2010.

It’s unclear how many Haitians at the U.S. border came from South America, but analysts tracking migration patterns point to data from the Panamanian government, which reported that more than 20,000 Haitians crossed its southern border this year, along with 4,365 Chilean and Brazilian children born to Haitian parents. Records show those numbers jumped dramatically in June and July. Misinformation and economic insecurity seem to be driving the surge.

Life for Haitians in Latin America has grown difficult. Some were given legal status by their host countries, making them ineligible for asylum here. Others settled illegally in Brazil, Chile and Central America or overstayed visas. Promising starts in Brazil and Chile soured when jobs dried up in Brazil and when Chile hardened its stance on immigrants. Meanwhile, Haiti’s instability has only deepened.

It’s undeniable that many Haitians face desperate circumstances, but economic insecurity is not grounds for asylum under U.S. law. Some migrants are also escaping racism, crime and gang violence, perhaps offering a stronger claim.

The Biden administration must demand that Brazil and Chile accept migrants who had resettled in those countries. It’s neither compassionate nor useful to return Haitians to a homeland they haven’t seen in years. The federal government must also look for regional solutions by pressuring governments along the migrant journey to control their own borders.

A lenient admissions policy at our border will prompt more migrants to make the dangerous journey north with their families. It’s easy for President Joe Biden’s critics on the right and left to denounce him when they are not the ones having to balance compassionate treatment of those coming here for relief with the need to manage the border and enforce laws.

We support a proposal by the Biden administration to shift the decision-making on some asylum claims from immigration judges to specially trained asylum officers, which would speed up the process for applicants. And we reiterate our calls to lawmakers to create more legal pathways for people who want to find work in the U.S. This would fill gaps in our labor market and give more families a chance at a better life.

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