Advocates: Haitian refugees not getting access to legal services

The Donlon Report

(NewsNation Now) — Almost two months after the indelible images of thousands of Haitian migrants huddled under a bridge at the U.S.-Mexico border in Del Rio, Texas, legal advocates are now saying that those detained are not getting access to legal services.

“There’s been a lawyer who has repeatedly requested access to these Haitians in Torrance Detention Center and (has) been denied that access,” Nicole Phillips said. “So it’s even more egregious than normal.”

Phillips is the legal director at Haitian Bridge Alliance. She co-signed a letter along with the New Mexico ACLU calling for a pause in deportations.

The letter states, in part:

“We write to request immediate reforms to ensure access to legal services for Haitian immigrants detained at the Torrance County Detention Facility, as well as a pause of deportations of Haitians detained at that facility until such reforms have been implemented.”

“They need legal assistance to be able to maneuver through this asylum system and to be able to best explain the reasons for why they fled Haiti and why they need asylum protection in the United States,” Phillips said, calling the issue a matter of due process.

It’s unclear how many migrants are still awaiting processing, but a Trump-era Homeland Security official said this is a predictable result of the migrant surge.

“What you’re seeing here is the overwhelming number of individuals coming across that border at any given month is overwhelming the system,” former acting DHS Secretary Chad Wolf said on NewsNation’s “The Donlon Report” on Wednesday. “So you can bet that there are backlogs.”

A request for comment from the Department of Homeland Security was not immediately returned.

In May, the Biden administration issued a designation from Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas granting temporary protected status for Haiti, saying, “Haiti is currently experiencing serious security concerns, social unrest, an increase in human rights abuses, crippling poverty, and lack of basic resources. The danger of return is why these groups say they are seeking a pause.”

The Haitian Bridge Alliance notes that the threat of violence from which the migrants fled still exists. And as the rule of law has deteriorated further, they say, the population facse a danger level even higher than when they left.

Wolf recommended reinstating the Trump administration’s remain in Mexico policy, which would force asylum seekers to stay out of the country as their claims are processed. The Biden administration has been using that policy since August when a judge ruled they had not ended the policy legally earlier in the year.

In early November, the administration again petitioned the court to allow them to end the policy, though this request has not been resolved.

“You’re going to continue to see folks coming across the border claiming asylum,” Wolf said. “We know that 90% never qualify for it, and you’re going to overwhelm the system.”

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