The Biden administration will use Guantanamo to detain some of the more than 14,000 migrants who arrived in Del Rio, Texas, according to news first reported by axios.com. Several press outlets are reporting that the detention center — adjacent to the prison areas where 39 inmates of the so-called war on terror are still held — has the capacity to accommodate between 120 and 400 people, and the “estimated daily population” inside it will be at least 20.
This is the U.S.’s political response to the controversy stirred by images of border police on horseback whipping migrants. It is not clear whether Washington also intends to transfer the “undocumented” to the military base, where between 1991 and 1993, the administration led by George H.W. Bush, under the supervision of then-Attorney General William Barr, had already locked up about 12,000 Haitian asylum seekers.
“It’s highly concerning that the administration may be considering using Guantánamo to detain Haitian asylum-seekers or others,” Wendy Young, president of the immigrant advocacy group Kids in Need of Defense, told NBC News.
And with the resignation of Daniel Foote, U.S. special envoy to Haiti, the crisis at the border looks set to escalate further. In a letter addressed to Biden, and also sent to the newspapers, Foote declared that he does not want to be associated with the decision, which he calls “inhuman” and “counterproductive,” to deport thousands of refugees to their country of origin, given the internal situation on the island.
Fernando Castro Molina, a migration consultant for Central America, adds that in recent weeks the number of deportations of migrants from the U.S. has increased: 5,000 by air and 28,000 by land.
After the arrival of thousands of Caribbean people in Tapachula (called a “prison city” by activists and migrants), in southern Mexico, due to the chaos that broke out in Haiti with the assassination of President Moise (on July 7), the earthquake and hurricanes Eta and Lota, a new transformation of migratory flows has taken place.
After the migrant caravans replaced the solo departures, the repression of the caravans led men and women to organize themselves into small autonomous groups, changing the trajectory of their journey as well: they no longer traveled towards Tijuana or Mexicali, but towards Coahuila. Without the clamor of the collective departure, the spotlight of the press, the political debate or the mediation of the “leaders” of the caravan, but with the protection afforded by agile, compact and small groups, they managed to overcome the blocks of the migration police and National Guard in Mexico and arrive in Del Rio, the point of contact between the state of Coahuila and Texas.
The change in migration strategy surprised the authorities in Guatemala, Mexico and the United States. It is worth recalling that among the deportees, the majority are men, women and minors from Central America.
In Tapachula, which has now become the central site for the confinement of migrants on their way to the United States, about 800 Haitian migrants a day have arrived during the past week, while at least 12,000 have set out on their journey. In the small city of Chiapanca, there are no less than 125,000 migrants trapped by police repression, for a local population of just under 200,000.
The relationship between Haiti and the United States on the issue of migration is certainly a peculiar one. To understand it, we need to look back, at least to the first Obama administration. In 2010, after a major earthquake, the U.S. government granted Haitian citizens temporary protection for several years, which prompted thousands to leave in search of a better life.
However, in 2016, the “Obama-era” policies became tougher and entry into the U.S. became more difficult. With the arrival of Trump, thousands of Haitian men and women had to stop in Mexico and build real communities, such as the one in Tijuana that counts several thousand people. The migratory flows from the Caribbean islands, as well as from the countries south of the Rio Bravo, are certainly not new—nor is the unhinged violence with which U.S. governments are responding to those fleeing the social, economic and environmental disasters created by neoliberalism and U.S. policies.