Chile admits Haitian migrants in record numbers as U.S. closes its borders to those fleeing violence
According to a report from The Wall Street Journal, Chile, which it cites as “one of Latin America’s richest and safest countries,” has opened up to welcome not only Latin Americans who are fleeing their home countries, but it is reportedly welcoming at least ten thousand Haitians.
In 2017, over 100,000 Haitians came to Chile, which was up from the 49,000 who entered in 2016. Rodrigo Sandoval, former head of Chile’s immigration office says, “The explosion of this (Haitian) immigration is the most intense in the history of Chile… There has never been a migration that has grown so much in such little time.”
In contrast to the United States and the Trump administration’s increasingly isolationist and xenophobic immigration policies, the Chilean government has adopted an open door policy. In response to Trump’s “shithole countries” remarks, Chile’s Foreign Relations Minister Heraldo Munoz told The Wall Street Journal, “The poor contribute to set out and improve their lives and that of the countries that receive them… The thousands of Haitians are an example in Chile.”
In contrast to developed nations moving against immigration, as we have seen in the United States immigration policies over the last decade, the United Nations estimates that around 92 million people globally migrate from one developing country to another, which accounts for roughly one-third of all migratory movements.
Additionally, the national attitude about immigrants in Chile seems much more progressive than the attitude about immigrants in the white American national imagination. A recent poll shows that two-thirds of people asked about the work habits of immigrants agree that they will work harder than Chileans, which is up from a little over one third in 2003. Typically, Haitians and other migrants enter the country using a tourist visa and if they obtain job contracts before the visa runs out, they can apply for work permits and then permanent residency.
Gabriella Cabello, director of Chile’s immigration office says that the existing immigration policy discourages illegal crossings while creating a notable incentive for immigrants to find jobs and pay taxes. In addition, Cabello said that illicit border crossings by Haitians are incredibly rare and that crime rates are extremely low. Cabello also credits the United States ongoing immigration limitations with the influx of Haitian migrants: “The U.S. has without a doubt had an influence because it inhibits certain nationalities from heading there, leading them to prefer destinations in the south.”