Skip to main content

LATEST UPDATES: Tracking COVID-19 | Vaccines | Racial Justice

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


Jean Guerrero, reporter, KPBS


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.


San Diego News Now podcast branding

San Diego news; when you want it, where you want it. Get local stories on politics, education, health, environment, the border and more. New episodes are ready weekday mornings. Hosted by Anica Colbert and produced by KPBS, San Diego and the Imperial County's NPR and PBS station.

  • Need help keeping up with the news that matters most? Get the day's top news — ranging from local to international — straight to your inbox each weekday morning.

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy Policy and Terms of Service apply.

Midday Edition banner

KPBS Midday Edition is a daily radio news magazine keeping San Diego in the know on everything from politics to the arts.

Want more KPBS news?
Find us on Twitter and Facebook, or sign up for our newsletters.

To view PDF documents, Download Acrobat Reader.