Haitian Civil Society Leaders Testify to US Congress

The House Foreign Affairs Committee held a hearing titled, Haiti at the Crossroads: Civil Society Responses for a Haitian-led Solution on Thursday, September 29. The speakers from Haiti were Vélina Élysée Charlier of Noupapdòmi, Mary Rosy Auguste Ducena from the National Human Rights Defense Network (RNDDH), and Alermy Piervilus, director of the Platform of Haitian Human Rights Organizations (POHDH). Former US ambassador to Haiti, Pamela White also testified.

Haitian civil society leaders testified that the Henry government has no constitutional mandate, and little legitimacy within Haiti. The Biden administration should stop giving Henry unconditional support. An agreement on a democratic transition can only happen if the Biden administration “takes its hands off the scale.”

Further recommendations included taking more determined steps to stop the illicit sales of weapons from the United States to Haiti, and considering targeted sanctions against people who are supporting the gangs. In Vélina Charlier’s written statement she says,

It is necessary to put things in perspective and establish responsibilities. The international interference has done a lot of damage to the country as well. Haitian people are tired of this interference and are asking for a change in the international policy towards Haiti. We want to move from the stage of assistance to an active international cooperation where Haitians become the real actors who define and implement the major projects for the development of their country.

The full hearing can be watched below.

During the question and answer, Vélina Charlier also made a clear statement that Congress should oppose any kind of military intervention.

The Quixote Center issued a statement opposing military intervention in Haiti last month, which we have translated to Haitian Kreyole. The original statement is here. The translation is available here.


If you are in the Washington, D.C. metro area, join a large coalition of groups for a demonstration at the White House on Sunday, October 9, 2022. We will meet at 16th and K and march to the White House, demanding that Biden stop propping up a lawless and corrupt government. You can endorse the march here.

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The Truth About Migrant Buses, and How to Help Migrants in Your City

For six months the governors of Texas and Arizona have been bussing migrants to DC, and later to New York, as a political stunt. The effort recently gained nationwide media attention when Governor DeSantis of Florida took credit for flying asylum seekers from Texas to Martha’s Vineyard, without giving any advance notice.

The migrants were told that they would go to Boston, where they would gain access to work opportunities. Instead, they were stranded on the vacation island, whose inhabitants  immediately mobilized to greet the migrants despite a complete lack of institutional resources. 

The state later offered migrants who wanted to leave Martha’s Vineyard transportation to a military base on Cape Cod, a designated emergency shelter. Currently, they are receiving pro-bono legal services as they decide where to relocate more permanently.  

A Boston nonprofit, Lawyers for Civil Rights, has filed a class-action lawsuit on behalf of the migrants stranded in Martha’s Vineyard. The suit was later joined by Alianza Americas, a nationwide network of migrant-led organizations. 

They allege that Governor DeSantis targeted, coerced, and misled migrants into boarding the airplane, thus interfering with the efficacy of the federal immigration process. 

This story is not new, but echoes another dark chapter in American history. In the 1960s, as a reaction to the Freedom Rides of civil rights activists,  Southern segregationists misled African Americans with promises of better opportunities into taking “Reverse Freedom Rides” to cities in the North. 

To take delight in this political ploy is to rejoice at the exploitation of already vulnerable groups, of families and people who have fled and crossed through unimaginable dangers to be here, only to be deceived and humiliated by the country that was supposed to welcome them. 

Welcoming people with dignity is far less costly. The state of Texas has spent over $14 million to fund the program, Arizona has spent over $3.5 million to transport migrants to Washington DC, and Florida’s flights to Martha Vineyard alone cost an estimated half a million dollars.  

These millions would have been much better spent in the hands of existing mutual aid networks and nonprofits already at the border, who often lack the funds necessary to secure transportation for migrants. It would have also saved similar networks in DC, New York City, and Chicago hundreds of thousands of dollars in plane and bus tickets to get asylum seekers to where they actually wanted to go in the first place. 

But beyond the political machinations, the real focus of every story should be on the fierce welcoming that is taking place across the country. 

Every state that has received migrant buses and planes, despite the lack of warning or resources to greet them, has immediately stepped up to welcome them, from Washington DC to Sacramento, California. And in Texas, the work of welcoming has been happening for decades. 

In Washington DC and New York City, solidarity networks sprung up practically overnight to help receive migrants, and have sustained themselves for months on end with little to no institutional support. 

This work is far from over. Here are a few of the places that have received migrant buses, and how to support those who are working on the ground to help. 

Washington DC

Between April and September of this year, DC welcomed more than 6,230 migrants sent from Texas and Arizona. This would not have been possible without the rapid response and organizing of the Migrant Solidarity Mutual Aid Network, led by Sanctuary DMV.  While buses are increasingly heading to New York, the need for volunteers and donations is boundless, as a high percentage of asylum seekers have chosen to make DC their new home. 

New York

At the beginning of the busing, DC, and later NYC, would typically receive between 1-3 buses per day. In New York City in recent weeks, that number has climbed to as many as eight buses per day. The lack of coordination from Texas officials is generating a humanitarian crisis in the city, amongst an already overloaded shelter system. 

Alarmingly, Mayor Adams is planning to build a tent city in the Bronx to accommodate asylum seekers, despite NYC’s right to shelter mandate that applies to all regardless of immigration status. 

Team TLC NYC has been leading welcoming efforts. 

  • You can donate HERE to support their work
  • Click here to volunteer to greet new arrivals. 
  • Click here to buy essential supplies from online wishlist. 

Chicago

On August 31st, Chicago received 100 migrants. 

Mayor Lightfoot has committed to providing support and resources, with help from the state and federal government, to welcome the arrivals. In response, the city of Chicago has created a volunteer and donation form

  • Volunteer to greet new arrivals. 
  • Drop off *brand new* donations here. To see the list of necessities, click here

Sacramento

Last week, a group of Venezuelan migrants were reportedly flown to Sacramento, California from Texas. It remains unclear who purchased their tickets. NorCal Resist is leading the charge to welcome these migrants and stated that it is unclear whether this is part of a political stunt or a mistake by ICE or CBP.

NorCal Resist also assists newly-arrived immigrants with housing, food, legal aid, medical assistance, and more. You can donate to support their efforts HERE.

The staff of Quixote Center is supporting the mutual aid effort in DC through volunteer hours, and through publicizing their efforts. 

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Hispanic Heritage Month: The Everyday Heroes of La 72  

In celebration of Hispanic Heritage Month, we are highlighting leaders from Latin America that have dedicated their lives to promoting peace and justice.  

I have met very few people as brave and committed to serving others as the staff at the La 72 migrant shelter in Tenosique, Mexico. 

72 crosses remember the 72 migrants killed in 2010

La 72 is named in memory of the 72 migrants who Las Zetas cartel killed in the 2010 San Fernando Massacre in Tamaulipas, Mexico. The shelter recently commemorated the 12th year anniversary of the massacre. In the shelter’s chapel, 72 crosses hang on the walls, marking the nationalities and names of the victims; some remain blank in memory of those who have yet to be identified.  

Just a few miles from the Guatemalan border, La 72 is not far from the very real dangers that many migrants have fled to escape. But inside the shelter’s walls, everyone that we spoke to told us that they felt safe and were relieved to have found refuge, even if it was for just a moment along their journey.  

La 72 welcomes an average of 100 people per day. They offer basic necessities such as clothing and food, medical care, and different housing options based on gender, sexual orientation, and family status. But the services La 72 offers go far beyond many shelters.  

The shelter is structured to promote a sense of safety and dignity, giving special attention to those with specific needs: families, LGBTQ+ individuals, unaccompanied minors, and people with disabilities. They provide psychological counseling, a necessity given the horrors that most encounter along the migratory route, and give workshops on everything from gender-based violence and reproductive health to positive parenting. 

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La 72 also collaborates with local organizations, businesses, and government programs to help migrants that decide to stay in Tenosique better integrate into the Mexican culture and labor market.  

La 72 staff visit community members as part of the Structural Change program

The Structural Change program fosters a deeper relationship between migrants and the communities along the route from the Guatemalan border to Tenosique. Through regular workshops and outreach, they have successfully altered the narrative surrounding migration in the region, leading to a more nuanced understanding of who is migrating (e.g. families and children, as opposed to single men) and why.  

They also train local communities on both their own rights and the rights of immigrants, empowering them to serve as human rights defenders. We noticed along the road to Guatemala a number of water cisterns to allow migrants to refill their bottles and learned that La 72 had installed these in partnership with the local towns.  

As the United States struggles to confront growing racism and xenophobia, perhaps this model can serve as an example of effective communication within our own communities.  

Those who work to welcome migrants and denounce human rights abuses in Mexico face many dangers, from cartel violence to retribution by the government. But in spite of the potential dangers, the staff of La 72 remain steadfast in their dedication to helping the most vulnerable in society.   

To help ensure that this vital work continues, you can donate HERE to support La 72. 

If you are interested in learning more about La 72, we encourage you to apply for our upcoming solidarity trip, which will take place on November 14-18th. Click HERE to read more about the trip details, and HERE to submit an application. 

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On Anniversary of Del Rio Disaster, Immigration Advocates Demand End to Haitian Removals 

On Anniversary of Del Rio Disaster, Immigration Advocates Demand End to Haitian Removals 

 FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: September 15th, 2022 

 Contact: Alexandra Gulden 

alexandra@quixote.org 

 

Washington DC—On the one-year anniversary of the human rights disaster in Del Rio, Texas, the Quixote Center and 19 organizational co-sponsors are delivering a petition to the White House calling on the Biden administration to halt all removals of Haitian migrants, including interdictions and repatriations at sea. The petition also appeared in The Hill and included over 600 individual signatures alongside co-sponsoring organizations.  

In mid-September of 2021, thousands of migrants began gathering at the Del Rio border crossing in Texas. The majority of the estimated 15,000 people who arrived over the course of a few days were from Haiti. In images that shocked the world, Border Patrol agents on horseback forced Haitian refugees into the Rio Grande, even appearing to use their reins to strike at fleeing migrants. Despite the national outrage, it took less than one week for the administration to disappear all 15,000 people from the public view.   

In the year since, the humanitarian crisis in Haiti continues to deteriorate. In July alone, over 500 people were killed as a result of armed groups fighting in Port-au-Prince. Last week, thousands of people across the country mobilized to protest the growing insecurity, rising costs, the fuel crisis, and Prime Minister Ariel Henry.  

The administration has expelled 26,700 Haitians since taking office, over 24,400 just since the Del Rio crisis in September of 2021. Additionally, since October of 2021, the Coast Guard has interdicted at least 7,137 Haitian migrants at sea. The vast majority have been immediately returned to Haiti. At least 220 deaths or disappearances of Haitian migrants have been reported at sea this year as a result of attempting this dangerous journey.  

“The human rights crisis in Del Rio laid bare the anti-Blackness and xenophobia inherent in our country’s immigration system. That the Biden administration continues to expel refugees to dire conditions in Haiti shows an utter lack of regard for Black and Brown lives,” said Dr. Kim Lamberty, Executive Director of the Quixote Center. “Seeking asylum is legal, no matter who seeks it or how. The administration must halt its policy of deterrence and removal, and acknowledge a real existing refugee crisis in Haiti, one that this country has contributed to creating.”  

“Who isn’t questioning why Haitian migrants are deported with such efficiency and vigor instead of supported as we do migrants from all other countries coming across our southern border at this time? We expect more compassion from this administration. Our Catholic faith, among many other faiths, teaches that every one of us is endowed with human dignity; no one is more important than another. The National Advocacy Center calls on President Biden and his administration to treat migrants from Haiti with respect, equality and welcome and to end the deportations,” said Fran Eskin-Royer, Executive Director of the National Advocacy Center of the Sisters of the Good Shepherd. 

“Haitians have the right to seek safety and the right to be treated with dignity while seeking safety. The images from Del Rio one year ago shocked our nation’s conscience and were a clarion call to confront the anti-Black racism that Haitians face while seeking asylum in the United States,” said Melina Roche, Campaign Manager of #WelcomeWithDignity. “Tragically, our government has returned more than 24,500 people, including young children, to a country in deep crisis. We joined our partners in delivering the petition to the White House to demand the administration stop its discriminatory expulsion of Haitians seeking protection and restore humanity and access to our asylum system.”  

“Maryknoll missioners in Haiti witness the unfolding three crises of violence, political corruption, and deepening poverty that make it clear that people fleeing to the United States from Haiti deserve protection,” said Susan Gunn, Director of the Maryknoll Office for Global Concerns. “Many Haitians are indeed fleeing for their lives, and it is our moral duty to welcome them. We ask President Biden to stop all removals of Haitian migrants and to follow the teachings of Pope Francis, to welcome, protect, promote, and integrate migrants who are so desperately in need of safety.” 

“The humanitarian catastrophe at Del Rio one year ago was a terrible example of the systemic violence that U.S. immigration authorities inflict on Haitians, including the highest rates of asylum denials and a disturbing history of offshore detention and maritime interdiction of asylum seekers,” said Anthony Enriquez, Vice President of U.S. Advocacy and Litigation at Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights. “If the Biden Administration is serious about honoring its commitment to advance equity and racial justice, it must break with the U.S.’s long, bipartisan history of anti-Black violence in immigration and immediately halt removals of Haitians.”  

“We once again call on the administration to end all returns of our Haitian neighbors to danger and the continued use of policies that illegally block people from seeking U.S. protection at our borders,” said Jennifer Quigley, Senior Director for Government Affairs at Human Rights First. “It is past time that the U.S. government restore compliance with refugee law and ensure equitable treatment of all refugees regardless of their skin color.” 

Joining the petition led by the Quixote Center are the American Civil Liberties Union, Beyond Borders, Catholics Against Racism in Immigration, Center for Gender and Refugee Studies, Faithful America, Haiti Response Coalition, Haitian Bridge Alliance, Human Rights First, Justice Action Center, Lawyers for Good Government, Maryknoll Office for Global Concerns, National Advocacy Center of the Sisters of the Good Shepherd, Pax Christi USA, PCUSA, Religious of Jesus and Mary, RFK Human Rights, Sisters of Mercy of the Americas Justice Team, The Sidewalk School, and the #WelcomeWithDignity campaign.  


 

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Protests in Haiti this week

On Wednesday, September 7, thousands of people mobilized throughout Haiti in demonstrations against the de facto government of Ariel Henry. Protests against the government have been growing as insecurity has gotten worse, and the economy continues to decline. Below is a survey of reports on Twitter about the protests from Port au Prince, Jeremie, Les Cayes, Jacmel and elsewhere.

The government, which up to now has been unable (or unwilling) to grapple with rising insecurity from gangs, mobilized the police to confront demonstrators. 

In Jeremie 3 people were shot and killed during protests. The police dispersed the crowds with tear gas several times. Automatic gunfire was heard throughout the area. In nearby Château, the office of Civil Protection Operations/Grand Anse was looted. 

Police reportedly fired live rounds to disperse demonstrations near Petionville

Thousands of people protested in Port au Prince.

Police fired live rounds in the downtown neighborhood of Lalue in Port au Prince.

In Jacmel, demonstrations also targeted the Kwahly family, which owns multiple businesses in Jacmel, including gas stations. As demonstrators approached the Kwahly compound their passage was blocked with burning tires and automatic gunfire erupted, wounding at least four people. 

In Les Cayes:

Protests in Les Cayes continue on Friday:

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Between Del Rio and the the deep blue sea 

If you come to the United States illegally, you will be returned.  Your journey will not succeed, and you will be endangering your life and your family’s lives.  Alejandro Mayorkas, statement at Del Rio, Texas September 20, 2021

In mid-September of 2021 thousands of migrants began gathering at the Del Rio border crossing in Texas. The majority of the estimated 15,000 people who arrived over the course of a few days were from Haiti. The message from the Biden administration was clear: Don’t come! If you do, you will be sent back. 

Amidst all of the posturing it was easy to forget that these were not “illegal” immigrants. Seeking asylum is legal, no matter how one arrives. Beyond that, the people were all clustered at an official port of entry. Nevertheless, the rhetoric from the administration was that illegal immigration would not be tolerated. Examples had to be made.

It took less than one week for the administration to disappear all 15,000 people from the public view. They pushed some back into Mexico, admitted others with “orders to appear ” before immigration authorities, and detained many more until the Department of Homeland Security could decide what to do with them. They ultimately removed thousands by plane back to Haiti. So many people were removed by plane in the space of a few weeks that the Biden administration extended a non-bid contract to the Geo Group to manage the flights on an emergency basis. The Geo Group is a private prison company, not an airline. 

During the spectacle at Del Rio, Border Patrol agents on horseback forced Haitian migrants back into the Rio Grande. The migrants were not doing anything illegal. At this point most had a stamped slip acknowledging their presence in the Del Rio encampment. They had simply crossed back into Mexico to purchase food, an option unavailable at the border station. Nevertheless, agents on horseback forced people back into the water, and some apparently used their reins to strike fleeing migrants. 

The image of Border Patrol agents whipping Haitians has come to define Biden’s approach to Haitian migration. Even as administration officials denounced the behavior of agents and promised an investigation into what transpired in Del Rio, they were emphasizing a deterrent strategy; the very strategy that led to the whips to begin with. Deterrence is an immoral policy which translates into threatening migrants with harsh consequences to discourage their migration. 

Thousands removed since last September

The Biden Administration has removed far more Haitians from the United States over the last year than any other administration in the last thirty years. The administration has done so under a somewhat unique set of circumstances: A mandate for summary expulsion of migrants under a Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) public health order (“Title 42”). However, even as the Biden Administration has carved out exceptions (Ukraine, Russia, Nicaragua, etc..), until recently, those exceptions did not include Haiti, despite acknowledgement from administration officials of the dangers people returned to Haiti face. Between September 19, 2021 and today, Biden’s team has removed over 24,500 Haitians from the United States.

That said, since the beginning of June, Haitians encountered at the US/Mexico border are no longer being expelled at the same rate. This seems to be the result of a court order requiring the administration to provide some baseline screening for people who express a fear of being returned to their home country (or third country). Over time, removals may well tick back up as people go through expedited removal proceedings. But for now, the administration has reduced dramatically Title 42 expulsions for Haitians. In June and July, the number of Haitians processed under Title 42 was less than 100 (32 in June and 54 in July). Many thousands of Haitians remain trapped in Mexico, however, as the border still remains closed to most. 

At the same time, U.S. Coast Guard interdictions at sea have skyrocketed.  Between October 1, 2021 and September 1, 2022, the United States Coast Guard reportedly interdicted 7,137 Haitians, almost all of whom are supposed to be returned to Haiti, though, as we’ll discuss below, thousands are unaccounted for. The number of people interdicted at sea has been accelerating since spring. Of the 7,137 interdictions recorded this fiscal year, 4,071 have occurred since mid-April. 

Coast Guard encounters of Haitian and Cuban refugees near the US coastline in Florida garner a great deal of attention. However, the majority of interdictions of Haitians take place in international waters where the U.S. Coast Guard’s authority to halt, detain and return people to Haiti rests on shaky legal ground. 

Last year Department of Homeland Security head, Alejandro Mayorkas, said, “[a]ny migrant intercepted at sea, regardless of their nationality, will not be permitted to enter the United States.” He was later forced to recalibrate this statement, to make an exception for people who qualify as political refugees. They, he said, would be processed and then sent to a third country.

We have heard that people seeking status as political refugees are processed at the Migrant Operations Center at the Guantanamo Bay naval station in Cuba. However, we do not know how many people have been processed there, nor how many people are currently detained there while awaiting a decision. The number is potentially quite large. Compared to the reported 7,173 interdictions, the Coast Guard has reported only 2,737 repatriations, 526 removals to third countries, and another 500 handed over to Border Patrol in the Miami sector. [These figures come from a survey of Coast Guard press releases, last accessed September 8, 2022].  

This leaves a gap of approximately 3,300 people whose current status is not clear. In conversation with the Coast Guard we’ve only been told that Haitain authorities are undercounting the returns, which, while possible, would hardly account for the entire gap between interdictions and returns. It is also possible that the Coast Guard numbers are unreliable. As to the question: How many people are being held in Guantanamo Bay’s MOC or detained elsewhere? We have not yet received an answer.

Casualties 

“These people are facing a perilous voyage because danger at sea is less than the danger at home.” Leonie M. Hermantinm Sant La in Miami

As many have pointed out, desperation is what drives people to risk the open waters of the Caribbean.  The situation, as summarized by Jacques Ted St Dic in Just Security, on September 7:

In the year since the assassination of President Jovenel Moïse, Haiti has found no political path forward, and the country continues to hit new nadirs. Gangs, many linked to politicians and business profiteers, control more than half the country, and their brutal violence has displaced tens of thousands. There are now only 10 elected leaders in Haiti, a group of senators who are the only officials whose terms have not expired, after previous governments failed to hold elections. The court system barely functions and the police force operates under political pressure. The economy is contracting, with a fuel shortage and spiraling inflation. 

As a friend in Port au Prince recently explained, “there is no life in Haiti right now, we are only surviving.”

A survey done under the auspices of the International Organization on Migration-Haiti, showed nearly half the people returned had resettled in Port au Prince. The capital is where current instability and violence is having the most extreme impacts: Nearly 1,000 people have been killed in Port au Prince so far this year, as the result of episodic attacks in some of the most vulnerable communities in the city. At least 480 of these deaths came in little more than a week in July when Jimmy Cherizier’s armed group, the G-9 Federation, brutally attacked rivals in the Cite Soleil Brooklyn neighborhood.

The people of Haiti are not facing any good choices. This week, people have mobilized in protest of the regime in power. Several people were shot and killed as a result, some by police, some by armed groups hired by local business elites. The Montana Accord, which lays out a transition plan negotiated and endorsed by hundreds of civil society organizations, and some political parties, has been acknowledged by the US government and Henry, but Henry has walked away from the dialog.

Most Haitians are far removed from these discussions. They are trying to survive, and for many, the best means of survival is to leave. In the absence of any process that recognizes their desperation, and respects what seems obvious, legitimate claims to refugee status, people who choose to leave end up taking very dangerous routes. There is no way to know what the real death toll has been, but at least 220 Haitians have died or disappeared at sea since October of 2021. [UNHCR reported 175 dead or disappeared in May 2022, and several other reports of drownings and disappearances have been made public since, including June 15, July 23, July 28]. 

The disaster unfolding is not solely of Biden’s making. It is the result of decades of deterrence as the mainstay of US immigration enforcement, and a long standing commitment to intervene in Haiti on the side of traditional economic and political elites, whatever the cost to “democracy.” Biden has a chance, however, to turn the page on this history. Indeed, many Haitian lives depend on him doing so.  

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Solidarity Center report on wages in Haiti

The AFL-CIO’s Solidarity Center just released their latest living wage study for Haiti, The High Cost of Low Wages, with a particular emphasis on wages and conditions for garment workers. The garment sector employs close to 58,000 workers, 63% of whom are women. There are industrial parks in Ouanaminthe and Caracol, as well as multiple factories in Port au Prince located near the airport. Most of the clothing produced in these factories is sewn for US brands and comes to the United States.

The results of the study are not surprising. Haitian garment workers are making less than one fourth of a living wage. 

Based on a series of interviews with workers, and merchants, the study documents the costs of a basic food basket, clothing, fuel, transport, health care expenses, housing, and education costs. They determine the minimum costs of meeting these household needs to be 90,928.51 Haitain Gourde (HG) a month. The current minimum wage in the garment sector is 685 HG a day based on a 6 day work week, which comes to 17,602 HG a month.

The situation could have been even worse. Earlier this year garment workers demonstrated for an increase in the minimum wage. The minimum wage for garment workers at the beginning of the year was 500 Haitian Gourdes (HG) a day. They were seeking a raise to 1500 HG a day. They won a 185 HG raise that brought the minimum daily wage to 685 HG, or $6.78 a day at the time. 

To get a fuller picture of what this means, I revisited these figures through the lens of labor time; how long do people have to work to earn a living, e.g, to live.

For example, the basic food basket used in the Solidarity Center study comes to 35,990.24 HG each month. At the current minimum wage (685HG) it would take a garment worker 420 hours to earn this much money – assuming an 8 hour day, which is not necessarily a safe assumption

Put another way, a garment worker would have to work at least 8.75 weeks to earn the money needed to feed themselves and their family a decent diet for a month. Which is impossible.

Add in shelter, transport to work, basic medical needs, education expenses for children, clothing, fuel costs for cooking, and workers need to work 1062 hours, or 22 weeks at the current wage, to meet these expenses for a month. 

Table from Solidarity Center report High Cost of Low Wages

The impossibility of this is clear. What this means is that people go without health care, and sufficient calories. They also have to share their housing with multiple people, and possibly rely on NGO support to get their kids to school. Even then they are barely scraping by despite having a full time job requiring them to work 48 hours a week (minimum). 

Could the factories pay more? Of course…

The Haitian Gourdes has fallen dramatically against the dollar since the earlier wage benefits were won back in February. On February 2, 2022, the Gourde was trading 101HG  to 1 US dollar. At that rate, the 685 HG daily wage came to $6.78. 

On August 22, 2022,  the gourde was trading at 129 HG to 1 US dollar. At this rate the same daily wage came to $5.31. The gourde has bounced back some over the last week, but the wages in dollar terms are still well below what they were when the raise first went into effect. 

Of course, the garment companies get paid in US dollars for the clothes they sew. They pay their workers in Haitian gourdes. As the gourde falls against the dollar, they make more money. This is not accidental.

The daily wage, as noted above, comes to 85.63 HG an hour. If we take the average official exchange rate over the last month as a baseline (about 122 HG to 1 US dollar), this comes to $0.70 an hour.

In the United States the monthly minimum wage for a garment worker is $1,160, or $7.25 an hour (the federal minimum wage). This is well below a living wage in the United States as well. The cost of housing and so on varies pretty dramatically across geographies in the US, but taking a national average, garment workers are making 70% of the local living wage – though in most cases probably significantly less. Of course, competing with $0.70 an hour makes it unlikely they will get a raise any time soon.

US policy makers, business leaders and others, even the well meaning, will point to garment jobs in Haiti and note they are relatively high paying jobs in the local economy. Policies are put into place as though the companies are doing Haitians a favor by locating there. The companies are granted low tax rates, pay zero export fees, and even garner public financial support to build out their facilities and connect to local infrastructure. 

In reality, the garment companies are making profits by stealing the life of Haitians, one hour at a time. 

The Solidarity Center’s recommendations include raising the minimum wage to a living wage; ensuring the workers can organize; making sure workers pick their representatives for the Superior Council of Wages; and pressing companies and/or the government to provide transportation subsidies for workers. 

You can read the full Solidarity Center study, the High Cost of Low Wages, and their complete set of recommendations here.

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Haitian migrants adrift in legal limbo

The United States Coast Guard is intercepting refugees from Haiti and Cuba and returning them back to their home countries in record numbers. As of August 12, 2022, the US Coast Guard had interdicted 6,812 Haitians since the current fiscal year began; over 4,000 Cubans have been intercepted as well.

The situation of Haitians caught at sea illustrates a systemic injustice in US immigration policy. The United States employs a variety of means to keep people from ever setting foot within the United States. Why? If someone is present in the United States they have the right under US law to seek asylum regardless of where or how they entered. Once on shore, in other words, the US government can not simply send people back to their home country if they demonstrate a “credible” fear of persecution. Title 42 enforcement has temporarily eroded this standard, though a federal court ruling in April of 2022 underscored the necessity of the US government to respect the principle of non-refoulement. People know their only chance to stay in the United States is to make it to shore (or across a land border), no matter how dangerous. If interdicted at sea, they will most likely be returned to Haiti.

US head of the Department of Homeland Security, Alejandro Mayorkas, made all of this quite clear last year when he said, “if you take to the sea, you will not come to the United States.” He continued, “If individuals make, establish a well-founded fear of persecution or torture, they are referred to third countries for resettlement. They will not enter the United States” (emphasis added).

At the same time avenues for seeking resettlement as a refugee have dwindled. If you are from Haiti, there is almost no way to receive humanitarian relief without first getting into the United States. Right now that means either flying to a country in South America that does not require a visa, and then traveling thousands of miles to the US/Mexico border, or getting onto a boat and taking your chances at sea. Whether by boat, or by land, the United States works very hard to make the journey as difficult as possible. People die as a result. At least 177 Haitians have been reported as dead or missing (on the high seas, that most likely means dead as well) since October of 2021.

Extra-territoriality targets Haitians

Haitians were, in fact, the original target of the United States’ extraterritorial expansion of immigration enforcement. The first step was first taken by the Reagan administration, which announced in September of 1981: “The entry of undocumented aliens from the high seas is hereby suspended and shall be prevented by the interdiction of certain vessels carrying such aliens.” The executive order required the Coast Guard to “ask the Haitians whether they are political refugees and examine any documents they may have.” Respect for Haitian refugee claims was largely non-existent. During the first ten years this executive order was in place, 24,600 Haitians were interdicted at sea; 28 of them were granted refugee status.

Even during the worst humanitarian crises, US policy has focused on keeping Haitians out. In September of 1991, the US-trained commanders of the Haitian military and police forces drove out President Aristide in a coup d’etat. Over the next three years thousands of people would die as associated paramilitary forces attempted a massive politicide against the Lavalas movement that had brought Aristide to power. Interdictions of people fleeing the violence soared. Nearly 32,000 Haitians were interdicted at sea; over 20,000 Haitians ended up detained at Guantanamo Bay at the peak of the crisis. 

Biden must allow all Haitian refugees access to humanitarian relief

The Biden administration has removed 26,000 Haitians from the United States since taking office. Most of those removals (87%) are based on the executive’s claim of Title 42 authority to engage in summary expulsions at the border due to the COVID-19 crisis. Over the same period, just over 70,000 Haitians have been processed under Title 8, and thus have a chance to appeal for humanitarian relief, underscoring the importance of making it into the country. A large number of people in this second group have been (or will be) removed anyway, as approval rates for asylum seekers from Haiti is extremely low.

There are no public statistics concerning the number of people interdicted at sea who have made an appeal for refugee status, and how many of those appeals have been approved. Guantanamo Bay is once again being used to hold people making humanitarian appeals, though how many people are being held is not known. 

At least 2,300 Haitians interdicted at sea since October of 2021 have already been repatriated to Haiti by the Coast Guard, and at least another 180 have been sent to “third countries” (Puerto Rico, Dominican Republic, and the Bahamas). What has happened to the other 4,400 is not clear. According to reporting in the Washington Examiner, all Haitians (and Cubans) are eventually repatriated: “‘Interdiction at sea is a Coast Guard function and individuals who are intercepted at sea do not get processed under immigration laws. Haitians … are taken back to Guantanamo Bay and processed at the Migrant Operations Center (MOC), then deported back to their home countries,’ Aaron Reichlin-Melnick, policy director at the Washington-based American Immigration Council, wrote in a message.’

The administration must clarify how it is using Guantanamo Bay, and what the numbers are. And Biden must stop denying refugees access to humanitarian relief within the United States. Placing barriers in the way of refugees as a means to deny them legal access to asylum processing must end. Such deterrent strategies have failed to deter, but it is getting people killed.  

We demand that the Biden administration halt all removals to Haiti, and halt the return of people interdicted at sea. You can join us in this effort here.

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La 72 commemorates the San Fernando massacre

On August 23rd, our partners at the La 72 migrant shelter commemorated the 12th year anniversary of the San Fernando Massacre. In 2010, 72 migrants were massacred by the Las Zetas cartel in El Huizachal in the municipality of San Fernando, Tamaulipas, Mexico. The San Fernando massacre was one of a series of mass killings that made clear how dangerous the journey through Mexico had become for migrants. 

In response to the killings, the Franciscan order in Tenosique established a shelter for migrants crossing into Mexico. La 72, Hogar Refugio para Personas Migrantes was opened in April of 2011, and has served tens of thousands of migrants since. In 2018 La 72 joined with other shelters in Mexico, Central America and the United States to form the Franciscan Network on Migration.

The Quixote Center is the fiscal sponsor of the Network in the US and takes part in the work of the networks advocacy team. You can donate to support the life saving work of the Network here . To join us November 14-18 on a solidarity trip to visit La 72 and a partner shelter in Guatemala, click HERE.  

This week, staff and those visiting the shelter honored the memory of the 72 migrants killed in San Fernando. We have translated their powerful Twitter thread highlighting activities to commemorate the 72 lives lost: 

 “On this August 23, 2022, La 72 raises its voice to echo the people whose lives were taken away [by the 2010 San Fernando Massacre.] For this, we carry out various activities to stand witness to their memory.” 

“Since yesterday, we started with placing handprints on the walls with the names or initials of the people inhabiting the house to leave their mark and make visible that at some point in life, all of us have been or will be migrants, either through your own decision or for forced reasons.” 

“We inaugurated the mural of hands with a few words from Brother Ricardo, and in the Franciscan spirit, an ecumenical ceremony was held in the chapel of the house. Afterward, we moved to the court, where the presentation of the work of visual artist Sofia Murillo took place.” 

“The event continued by lighting candles as we read, loud and clear, the names of our 72 brothers and sisters.” 


“Dear reader, La 72 is the Resistance, if the authorities do not do their job nor protect human rights, we stand ready to fight to do so and remember, on the 12th anniversary [of San Fernando], that every human being has the right to safe, dignified, and free transit.” 

“Those 72 people, 61 crosses with their names and nationalities and 11 blank crosses, should not be hanging on the wall of a chapel, but walking down the street, breathing freedom, hugging a loved one, laughing… EXISTING BUT NOT IN MEMORY!” 

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Press Release: Quixote Center Opposes Armed Intervention in Haiti

Quixote Center Opposes Armed Intervention in Haiti: Peace Must be Led by the People of Haiti 

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: August 18th, 2022 

Contact: Alexandra Guldenalexandra@quixote.org 

Washington DC—The security crisis in Port-au-Prince continues to deteriorate. In July alone, nearly 500 people were killed when rival gangs warred in Cite Soleil. Armed groups control transportation routes into and out of the capital, extorting and kidnapping travelers.  

Calls for armed intervention have ramped up in recent months; however it is the international community’s disregard for democratic principles that has led to the current crisis.  

“The Quixote Center opposes any kind of foreign military intervention in Haiti,” said Executive Director Dr. Kim Lamberty. “Past military interventions have been disastrous, and have led to gross human rights violations. Rather than military intervention, the international community could support Haitian civil society-led dialogue, and cease to grant unquestioning support to the current interim government authorities.” 

“A Haitian-led solution is the only pathway to stability and peace. Over the last two years, Haitian civil society organizations have been engaged in extensive dialogue about governance to build a more democratic future. If the international community is to take action, it must end its support for Prime Minister Henry so that dialogue can take place, listen to peace-makers in impacted communities, curb illegal weapons trafficking into the country, and address the structural issues of extreme poverty and lack of employment that drive violence.” 

See the Quixote Center’s complete statement here  

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The Quixote Center empowers vulnerable families and communities to become the artisans of their own destiny through transforming oppressive systems and structures. Inspired by liberation theology and Catholic Social Teaching, we do this through sustainable development, advocacy, economic justice, environmental, and educational initiatives. Our current focus is on Nicaragua and Haiti, where we support programs to empower impoverished families and communities, and support for migrants in Mexico and Central America, where we work to mitigate the damage of US immigration policies. Quixote Center has been working with partners in Haiti since 1999. 

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Contact Us

  • Quixote Center
    P.O. Box 1950
    Greenbelt, MD 20768
  • Office: 301-699-0042
    Email: info@quixote.org

Directions to office:

6305 Ivy Lane, Suite 255. Greenbelt, MD 20770

For public transportation: We are located near the Green Belt metro station (green line)