Two Haitian women, with similar back stories, met starkly different fates after crossing the U.S.-Mexico border in Texas.
Story by Lauren Villagran | Photos by Omar Ornelas, El Paso Times
Marie Martine and Briyanne Jeanniton fled their native Haiti, traveled for years on parallel journeys across two continents before landing at the Texas border.
Their paths never crossed but, in March, they each made what they hoped would be their last leg: They surrendered to Border Patrol agents, one in El Paso, the other in Del Rio.
They met remarkably different fates.
Agents in Del Rio gave Jeanniton, 23, a “credible fear” screening that put her on a legal path to seek asylum — she acknowledged she was afraid to return to Haiti — and they released her to travel freely to a friend’s apartment in West Palm Beach, Florida.
Briyanne Jeanniton, a Haitian migrant lived in Tapachula, Chiapas before traveling to Monterrey, Mexico, and eventually crossing into the U.S. and making her way to Florida in March of 2021. In the photo, Jeanniton is photographed in Chiapas in February of 2020.
Agents in El Paso loaded Martine, 49, and husband Fanfan Jean into a van, dropped them at a downtown bridge to Juárez and told them to return to Mexico.
“I feel free,” Jeanniton said in a video call, using Spanish she acquired during time spent in Chile and traversing South and Central America, to Mexico. “I don’t know if you can understand me. Ten or 12 countries behind me! And when you arrive, you feel free. Like when a person was a slave and becomes free, because the journey is over.”
Back in Juárez, in a hastily rented room, Martine said her experience at the border was “mal, mal, mal” — very bad.
The Border Patrol “didn’t ask me about Haiti,” she said. “Haiti is very dangerous. If I go to Haiti, I could be killed. But they didn’t ask me about Haiti. They only told me, “You are going back to Mexico.” Continue reading