By Jessica Easthope
Now is the time to strategize. A small advocacy group is pulling together lawyers, money, supplies and medication to the Haitian families who made it up from the Del Rio border – and for the families who remain. Despite reports, there are still hundreds at Customs and Border Protection processing centers.
“We went to advocate, we didn’t know there were going to be any Haitians to touch any Haitians to advocate for, but we weren’t prepared for the many ways that God opened doors,” said Elsie Saint Louis, the CEO and executive director of HAUP, Haitian Americans United for Progress.
Last week the group led by father Hilaire Belizaire with representatives from Catholic Charities Brooklyn and Queens and HAUP, Haitian Americans United for Progress went down to Del Rio, Texas. For four days they helped migrants hoping to be received by families across the United States – they purchased plane tickets, called family members and mediated with ICE agents.
But the horrors of what migrants experienced stayed with them.
“They looked scared, they haven’t been eating for seven days, they haven’t showered,” said Father Hilaire.
“I saw my brothers and sisters in so much pain and misery and this is a crisis, it’s not a Haitian crisis, a black or white crisis but a humanitarian crisis,” said Deacon Jean Rameau.
Of the 15,000 Haitians who were camped out at the border, around 5,000 made it into the United States for processing and 1,000 made it to New York. But the Haitians already living here are suffering too, helpless in bringing their family into the country – only to see them return home to struggling Haiti.
“It’s heartbreaking, it’s painful, I put myself in their own shoes, they were seeking a place of refuge and now they’re going to a place with so much insecurity, that’s what keeps me up at night,” Father Hilaire said.
Now understanding the path forward – the group came back more energized than ever to help solve this crisis.
“The story’s not over, the Haitians are on the border and they need compassion and no Haiti cannot receive them, Haiti is too fragile,” Saint Louis said.
The group is meeting this week with members of congress to help the families here who need work and a place to stay, as well as those still hoping to make it out of Texas. According to U.S. immigration authorities 60 to 80,000 Haitians are still en route to the United States through South America.