Haitian Migrants Flee via Puerto Rico
(Subscribe to our blogs HERE & HERE)
Danica Coto and Trenton Daniel report on how Haitian migrants find safer passage to the U.S. mainland through Puerto Rico. They call it “a newly popular route” that has caught officials in the Caribbean by surprise; I had assumed that this route had been a popular choice for years. They write:
Hundreds of Haitian migrants have made their way to Puerto Rico in recent months. They’ve found that if they can make it to the U.S. territory without getting arrested, they can fly on to U.S. cities such as Miami, Boston or New York without having to show a passport, although some kind of identification, such as a driver’s license, is needed. Immigration authorities checking travelers before they leave Puerto Rico for the U.S. mainland sometimes find them carrying fake driver’s licenses or other identification, but counterfeit documents are not always detected.
[…] There are no official statistics on how many Haitians have successfully made their way illegally to Puerto Rico, or how many have traveled on to the U.S. mainland. But the trend worries officials in the U.S. and the Dominican Republic, with both countries reporting a jump in arrests of Puerto Rico-bound Haitians.
Migrants reportedly are paying smugglers $1,000-$1,500 for a trip to Puerto Rico, located less than 100 miles east of the island of Hispaniola, which is shared by the Dominican Republic and Haiti. At the same time, Dominican officials have detained more than 400 Haitians bound for Puerto Rico in the past four months, compared with just a handful annually in previous years, said Victor Pilier, the Dominican Republic’s director of naval intelligence. “It’s an excessive amount,” said Pilier, who oversaw the capture of 78 Haitians headed to Puerto Rico in late April before sending them back home. “It’s unusual.”
U.S. officials in the past six months captured 352 Haitian migrants who were bound for Puerto Rico or were found on or near the island. Coast Guard statistics show that between October 2010 and September 2011, only 13 such migrants were found, and at most five Puerto Rico-bound Haitians were arrested in the two years before that. The odds of reaching the U.S. mainland directly from Haiti have dropped as the U.S. Coast Guard beefs up patrols by Hamilton class cutters, or what Haitian migrants simply refer to as “Amilton.”
Along with trying to sail directly to the U.S. mainland, Haitians in the past attempted to get to the United States through long-established smuggling networks on islands including the Bahamas and Turks and Caicos.