Haitians gathered in Reynosa will be a bellwether to see how immigrants respond to the demise of Title 42 and Biden’s new plan.
REYNOSA, Mexico — An estimated 15,000 mostly Haitian immigrants have packed into every crevice of this northern Mexican city on the Rio Grande across from McAllen, Texas, and won’t leave. At least not until after 11:59 p.m. on May 11.
That’s the moment when the pandemic-era “Title 42” rapid expulsion policy finally expires and is replaced by a new, untested Biden administration plan for keeping them in Reynosa as well as the “volatile logjam,” as The New York Times recently termed them, of tens of thousands of other immigrants now waiting for the policy change all over Mexico.
But because of a powerful deterrent of Title 42 fairly unique to them, the 15,000 Haitians in Reynosa make for a good bellwether for if the administration’s replacement strategy will hold them back as Title 42 has, or will invite the most chaotic rush on the U.S. southern border yet in this third long year of the most voluminous mass migration event in recorded American history.
The reason to watch Reynosa after May 12 is that most of its Haitians, long ago overflowing migrant camps all over town, will not dare cross the river while Title 42 is in effect, unlike other nationalities who have already disregarded it by crossing in large numbers. The Haitians of Reynosa won’t go even as they enviously witness large numbers of Venezuelans nearby illegally cross in an overwhelming new surge despite Title 42 and see the American government admit them into the country.
Haitians like Shalo Veno, his back to a squalid shantytown where he lives with 500 others, explained that he and his fellow countrymen won’t dare likewise test Title 42 because, whereas most other Title 42 expellees just end up back in Mexico, Haitians could be flown — and often enough are — all the way back to their home island of Haiti, a consequence far costlier for them.
“When I travel here,” Veno said in broken English, pointing at the other bank, “the American policeman keep me and send me back to Haiti. I’m afraid. I’m afraid. I’m afraid. That’s the reason I’m not going. I’m afraid.”
Title 42’s impact on them is why its ending makes Reynosa and its reticent population of Haitians almost the perfect bellwether to know if the Biden administration’s plan for May 12 is going to work as sold. Either way, many hundreds of thousands, turning into millions by the end of the Biden term, will enter.
The question is whether it will be an orderly flow no one can see — or a schizophrenic rush that overflows border management preparations into towns and cities across the country, hurts the country, and poses a political liability for Democrats thinking about 2024 elections.
By Todd Bensman
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About the Author
Todd Bensman is a Texas-based senior national security fellow for the Center for Immigration Studies, a Washington D.C.-based research institute, and a writing fellow for the Middle East Forum. His book, “Overrun: How Joe Biden Unleashed the Greatest Border Crisis in U.S. History,” (Bombardier Books) will be released in February. For nearly a decade, Bensman led counterterrorism-related intelligence efforts for the Texas Department of Public Safety’s Intelligence and Counterterrorism Division. Follow him on Twitter @BensmanTodd.