- The Washington Times - Sunday, November 20, 2016

Haitian illegal immigrants are pouring into the U.S. at a rate of some 3,000 a month, blazing new paths and exploiting special policies and lax Obama administration enforcement to gain a foothold in the country, according to a secret government intelligence assessment.

Thanks to advice from family members already in the U.S., new immigrants are spreading out across the border, testing crossings in Arizona and Texas where they have been told they will have an easier time getting through, analysts said in a Nov. 17 bulletin from the U.S. Customs and Border Protection’s office of intelligence, which The Washington Times reviewed.

Perhaps most striking was the presence of an illegal immigrant from the Middle East who appeared to be attempting to sneak in along with a group of 50 Haitians.

Border officials have been grappling for months with the Haitian surge. Thousands are making the trek from Brazil, where they have been living since the aftermath of the 2010 earthquake in their home country. The Haitians are hoping to take advantage of lax immigration enforcement in the U.S.

The word has now spread to Chile, where analysts said some 40,000 Haitians went for refuge after the earthquake. Encouraged by family members who have made it to the U.S., many are now eyeing a trip north.

The government of Haiti, whose difficulties were compounded this fall by Hurricane Matthew, is limiting its cooperation with deportations. Haiti is capping the number of people it will take back at just 30 a day — a fraction of the 100 who are arriving at the U.S. border.

“Haitian arrivals at the U.S. southwest border (SWB) have continued to exponentially increase,” the intelligence analysts said.

They said “positive change of U.S. policies” is one of the factors that is attracting Haitians.

The issue has hit the San Diego area particularly hard because Haitians were initially showing up at the port of entry to demand asylum.

But the analysts said Haitians are beginning to sense more resistance from officers in California, so they have started drifting to entry points east.

“Haitians have learned well over time how to take full advantage of the immigration system and exploit it to their benefit,” said Joe Kasper, chief of staff to Rep. Duncan Hunter, a California Republican who has closely tracked the situation.

“Now that San Diego is becoming a more difficult point on entry, they’re moving east to avoid being turned back. They know for the next few months at least that this current administration will allow it, even encourage it,” he said.

U.S. officials met with Haitian government employees in Haiti on Nov. 14 and tried to speed up repatriations, but they were told that Haiti could take only 60 deportees per flight and could handle a flight only every other day.

Complicating matters is the International Organization of Migration’s policy of giving the Haitian deportees $100 in cash when they arrive to facilitate reintegration. Officials fear gangs will start to target the new arrivals for robberies.

The organization has asked the U.S. to vary its flight schedules so the gangs won’t be able to plan their attacks, the analysts said.

CBP told The Times that it is aware of the Haitian surge but insisted the problem is still primarily at California’s San Ysidro port of entry, the busiest in the nation. A spokeswoman said the agency has the ability to shift resources to handle the increase.

New arrivals of all nationalities are supposed to be priorities for deportation, but the administration suspended most removals to Haiti after the 2010 earthquake.

Earlier this year, as the Haitian surge into the U.S. began, Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson announced that deportations would kick into high gear. But the hurricane struck, and deportations were again suspended. Since the suspension was lifted effective Nov. 3, 150 have been deported on five flights to Haiti.

As of Nov. 12, the U.S. had 4,425 Haitians in the immigration system, up from 619 on Sept. 24. Of those in the system, 2,451 have been given final orders of deportation.

The Washington Times reported last month on the route the Haitians take from South America, paying thousands of dollars to be smuggled up the west coast through Central America and then into Mexico, where authorities issue permits giving them time to cross to the U.S.

Once in the United States, many of the Haitians claim asylum and fight deportation in cases that can drag on for years, guaranteeing the migrants a foothold in the country. U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services said it received referrals to conduct credible fear screenings, the first part of an affirmative asylum claim, for 523 Haitians over the past year.

Other Haitians who are apprehended are put on a slow deportation track, giving them a chance to hide in the shadows along with other illegal immigrants. Southern Florida is a particularly attractive destination for Haitians, the document said.

• Stephen Dinan can be reached at sdinan@washingtontimes.com.

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