‘The only way to survive’: Haitian refugees arrive in RI as they seek asylum

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PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) — Over the past month, thousands of Haitians have been trying to cross the Mexican border into Texas.

An estimated 60 to 80 of them have since arrived in Rhode Island, and two sat down with 12 News this week to share their story of survival.

Wanting to stay anonymous, the young man and his cousin, who’s six months pregnant, asked that we show only their legs and feet which have carried them across all types of terrain after fleeing from Haiti in 2013.

“From Brazil to Bolivia, from Bolivia to Peru, from Peru to Ecuador,” they said through a translator.

“There’s a side that is sad because they depart from their family,” he added. “On the other side, they’re saying leaving this country is the only way just to survive, to become productive to society, to help the folks back home in Haiti.”

Gangs have essentially taken over the island nation since the president was assassinated in July and an earthquake hit in August. They’ve been killing anyone they disapprove of and have kidnapped American missionaries.

“They were living in really a hard life there, so there were no options besides just enter into America to pursue better happiness,” the translator said of the cousins.

That hope for a better life superseded their fear of what might happen when crossing the border. They gave border patrol officers the address of a friend in Rhode Island and were allowed to travel here as they await their immigration court date on Nov. 4.

The man says he has a 2-year-old child and a 1-month-old baby, so he’s seeking asylum in the United States so the family can work while they await the next steps of the immigration process.

Since these people didn’t come into the country legally, they live in fear of being deported. However, immigration lawyers tell 12 News the courts are currently bogged down with cases, so it could take months for them to actually have to leave the country if a judge doesn’t grant them asylum.

The cousins say they’re hopeful to eventually return home to Haiti once it’s safe to do so.

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