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Haitian Families Divided By U.S. Immigration Policy Shift

Nine months pregnant, 24-year-old Sandra Alexandre crossed rivers and climbed mountains, traveling through some of the most dangerous countries in the world.

Activists say about 50 families have been separated by the recent decision of the U.S. to tighten immigration restrictions on Haitians.

Haitian Families Divided By U.S. Immigration Policy Shift

GUEST:

Jean Guerrero, reporter, KPBS

Transcript

She had one goal: to make it to the U.S.

"It's too difficult, I won't make it," Alexandre recalled telling her fiancé and travel companion, Volcy Dieumercy, somewhere between Colombia and Panama. "Volcy said, 'yes, yes you can make it, little by little, but you are going to make it. Be brave.'"

She did make it. But Dieumercy did not — at least not yet. Because of her pregnancy, Alexandre was allowed into the country before Dieumercy, bypassing long wait times at the ports of entry. Within hours, the U.S. announced it was tightening immigration restrictions on Haitians for the first time since the devastating 2010 earthquake.

Dieumercy was stuck in Mexico. His baby — named Nova Vitoria, which means "new victory" — was born in San Diego on Sept. 25. Dieumercy missed the birth, and he still hasn't met his daughter.

“I want him to come here so we can live together," Alexandre said. "As a family."

Photo by Kris Arciaga

Sandra Alexandre, a 24-year-old Haitian woman, embraces her U.S.-born daughter, Sept. 30, 2016.

The couple is among tens of thousands of Haitians who left Brazil, where they had moved after the earthquake, and headed to the U.S. this year, fleeing economic and political turmoil in the South American nation.

For years, Haitians without visas were allowed to enter the U.S. on a humanitarian parole provision. Now, those same people are being placed in detention centers. After Haiti's presidential elections on Oct. 9, the U.S. will attempt to deport them to Haiti unless they prove they fear returning.

On Friday, Dieumercy was finally able to speak with a U.S. immigration official at the Calexico Port of Entry. He is currently in a detention facility.

Immigrant rights activists say about 50 families have been separated. Alliance San Diego recently launched a petition asking the U.S government to let families like Alexandre's reunite north of the border.

Alexandre said she wishes she had known the policy was going to change prior to making the risky journey.

Photo by Kris Arciaga

Nova Vitoria sleeps on a bed in San Diego, Sept. 30, 2016.

"They should have told us before. Not like this," she said. "It's very difficult for me and the baby."

Going back to Haiti, she said, is not an option.

“In Haiti, life is very difficult. Very, very, very difficult. It’s so dangerous too," she said.

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