What America Owes Haitian Asylum Seekers

Michael Posner

By Michael Posner

By Michael Posner

Last month, the Biden administration announced that it had cleared a makeshift tent camp where thousands of Haitians had congregated under a bridge linking Mexico and Del Rio, Texas. They had arrived there desperate to gain admission to the United States, many fleeing persecution in Haiti and seeking the protection of our asylum law. The administration’s unsteady response to this crisis has revealed, once again, the broken nature of this country’s asylum system. It also is a grim reminder of the longstanding U.S. tolerance of government corruption and the denial of basic human rights in Haiti.

Since the adoption of the Refugee Act of 1980, those who arrive at our border or have already entered the country are entitled to seek asylum if they can demonstrate a “well-founded fear of persecution” based on their race, religion, nationality, political opinion or membership in a social group. This law has roots in the Holocaust and U.S. commitments made after World War II to provide refuge to people fleeing persecution. But the asylum system has been hampered from the outset by political controversy and bureaucratic dysfunction.

Many of the Haitians who camped under the bridge in Del Rio had made multiyear journeys through Latin America and then to our southern border. Some were inspired to try to enter the United States now because of a misimpression that President Biden’s replacement of former President Donald Trump — and the Biden administration’s decision to extend temporary protected status to Haitians already in the country — signaled an opportunity for them to come here, too. Temporary protected status suspends deportations of Haitians already in the United States because of the current instability in their country. Like immigrants from around the world, these Haitians, including the many asylum seekers, are looking for a new home where they will find stability, better jobs and more security than their own country can offer.

Read the full New York Times article.
Michael Posner is a Professor of Business and Society and Director of the NYU Stern Center for Business and Human Rights.