Miami. New York City. Santo Domingo.
These cities are home to the largest populations of Haitians living outside the country.
Tijuana, a Mexican city that borders the U.S., may soon be added to that list.
An estimated 3,500 Haitians are now living in the border city of Tijuana, Reuters reports, with some also living in nearby Mexicali. Tijuana is expected to become one of the Haitian diaspora’s major hubs in coming years, according to Mexico’s Secretary of the Interior.
“Our country has hit rock bottom,” Thea Nonce Jean, a resident of Tijuana’s “Little Haiti,” told Reuters.
“Now we’ve decided to stay in Tijuana.”
Jean, like most Haitians living in Tijuana, are migrants who were originally planning to settle in the U.S. after the Caribbean country’s devastating 2010 earthquake. When the U.S. deported thousands of Haitians who attempted to enter “illegally,” many were left stranded in Tijuana.
After paying thousands of dollars to human traffickers and crossing up to seven countries, Jean was left with no other option but to stay in Tijuana. He now works building homes in “Little Haiti” on the edge of Tijuana.
“There's room for around 100 families on these plots, that means around 400 people,” Gustavo Banda, a local pastor who gave up the land for the construction of the settlement, told Reuters.
“They can't keep living in the shelters.”
Some of the migrants who were interviewed by Reuters said they were waiting to hear from Mexico's National Migration Institute to see if they would be allowed to stay and work in Mexico.
The Institute told Reuters that “legalization for migrants is not immediate, and there are various requirements foreigners need to fulfill.”
While Haiti has seen progress since the 2010 earthquake, the negative impacts continue, exacerbated by decades of external interventions that impoverished the Caribbean nation.
Over seven years have passed since the devastating earthquake rocked Haiti on Jan. 12, killing 222,750 people, injuring thousands and leaving 1.5 million homeless.