Philadelphia woman with Haitian roots in disbelief over treatment of refugees at US-Mexico border

Dorlus' parents are from Haiti, giving her a window into the poverty and violence. "Haiti has been through so much turmoil."

TaRhonda Thomas Image
Wednesday, September 22, 2021
Local woman with Haitian roots in disbelief over treatment of refugees
"My mom would always say to us in creole... 'You guys should be lucky and thank God I didn't have you guys in Haiti," said Carine Dorlus, of Philadelphia.

PHILADELPHIA (WPVI) -- Carine Dorlus recently had to take a break from social media. The images she was seeing of Haitians at the southern border were just too upsetting for her.

"No human being should be treated like that," she said of photos that show U.S. border agents on horseback snapping whips at Haitian refugees trying to cross into the United States.

The images are hard for anyone to see, but they're even more difficult for Dorlus because her family is from Haiti.

"My mom would always say to us in creole... 'You guys should be lucky and thank God I didn't have you guys in Haiti. And now I see it. I see why," said Dorlus, who identifies as Haitian American.

Both of her Dorlus' parents are from Haiti, and she has family there. It gives her a window into the poverty and violence in that country.

"Haiti has been through so much turmoil," she said of recent months in which Haiti has faced the assassination of its president, rampant gang violence and a devastating earthquake as many are still trying to recover from the earthquake of 2010.

RELATED: Many Haitian migrants camped at Texas border town are being released in US, officials say

The White House is facing sharp condemnation from Democrats and Republicans for its handling of the influx of Haitian migrants at the U.S. southern border.

Those conditions have caused Haitian refugees to flee with thousands ending up at the same place: the southern border of the U.S.

"There's just a lot of bad information (that refugees are getting)," said University of Pennsylvania Law School Professor Fernando Chang-Muy. "(People tell them) if you reach a certain part of the Tijuana/US border, you can get in."

University of Pennsylvania Law School Transnational Legal Clinic Director Sara Paoletti says many of the thousands of Haitian migrants have wound up at the border after years of working in Central and South America.

"For the most part, these are Haitian migrants who have been on a migration journey for a long time," she said.

Paoletti and Chang-Muy say a number of factors led up to the border crisis, including immigration case backlogs, and U.S. immigration asylum laws which don't necessarily include protections for people fleeing gang violence and poverty.

"The people fleeing have to fit into these pigeonhole boxes in order to get protection in the United States," said Chang-Muy.

RELATED: US ramps up plan to expel Haitian migrants gathered in Texas

The Department of Homeland Security said it moved about 2,000 migrants out of Del Rio to other locations on Friday for processing and possible removal from the U.S.

Paoletti says the history of the treatment of Haitian migrants in the U.S. also can't be ignored.

"We have a very long history of discriminating against Haitian migrants," she said while mentioning, as an example, Clinton-era policies that sent Haitian migrants to Guantanamo Bay.

That type of history makes Dorlus concerned about the flights that Haitian migrants are being forced on to send them back to Haiti.

"Ninety-six-thousand Afghans came here with no problem," she said. "I just don't understand that."

Paoletti says the southern U.S. border operates differently, albeit consistently, from any other border, with tactics including physical force being used. She notes that it's not uncommon for migrants from South America to be sent back from the border via bus.

"The use of flights to expel people from the border is not novel," she said. "What is novel is that we're doing this to Haitians when the US government has recognized that we have a crisis in Haiti."

Seeing Haitians being deported makes Dorlus think of her father who was deported in 2002. She goes back to Haiti to see him and to bring help to the people of that country through her non-profit Philadelphia for Haiti.

The organization has provided relief aid and volunteers in communities since 2018. Dorlus said she is planning another trip in the coming weeks to help residents recover from the earthquake this summer.

"I still have hope for Haiti," she said.