haitian migrants
Haitian migrants exit a van in Del Rio, Texas, where they had been stranded after trying to cross the U.S.-Mexico border in September, 2021. Photo by Leonardo March.

During a panel about Haitian migration held Nov. 22 at New York University, three experts dove into the root causes that have driven Haitians to migrate from Haiti to South America and the U.S.

“This recent migration pattern and recent migratory developments that have brought Haitians to the U.S.-Mexico border have been 10 years in the making at the very least,” said Gabrielle Apollon, a supervising attorney with NYU Law’s Global Justice Clinic.

The virtual panel, titled “Haitian Migration Beyond the News Cycle: A Virtual Teach-in,” featured Apollon, Ralph Thomassaint Joseph, editor-in-chief of the news outlet AyiboPost, Emmanuela Douyon, executive director of the consulting firm and think-tank Policité, and Wynnie Lamour, who founded The Haitian Creole Language Institute of New York.

Apollon said many Haitians lived in South America before arriving at the U.S.-Mexico border. She pointed out that racism and discrimination as one of the reasons Haitian migrants found themselves forced to leave one country and travel to another. 

“Many of these countries have legacies of colonialism, colorism and slavery,” she said.

Apollon added that the mass deportation of Haitians in Del Rio, Texas, “was just the continuation of the singling out of Haitians for particularly draconian immigration policies.”

Joseph, editor-in-chief of the news outlet AyiboPost, said the causes stem from U.S. policy that have affected Haiti. He highlighted significant moments in history such as how the U.S. didn’t recognize Haiti as an independent republic at the beginning of the 1800’s or how the United States Marine Corps invaded Haiti in 1915 and remained there for almost twenty years.

“What happened in Del Rio, Texas, is the consequence of the U.S. policy in Haiti,” Thomassaint said. “To avoid the next wave of Haitian migration, which I think will be more significant, the U.S. must review its policy in Haiti.”

Emmanuela Douyon, executive director of the consulting firm and think-tank Policité, said “economic, socio and political motives can explain why Haitians flee their country.” 

The economy of Haiti has suffered from three consecutive years of negative economic growth and rising inflation, Douyon said. 

Juan B. Garcia graduated from the Craig Newmark Graduate School of Journalism at CUNY with a master's degree in Spanish-language Journalism. He has a bachelor's degree in Spanish from Lehman College. His reporting has appeared in Telemundo, Mott Haven Herald and The Hunts Point Express. He has published a few short stories in Los Bárbaros. Any questions or tips, you can email him at juan@haitiantimes.com

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