Fact check: Conspiracy theory falsely claims Trump advisor Jason Miller sparked Haitian migration
- On social media, viral posts have accused a former Trump advisor of sparking a border crisis.
- But migrants are following the same path thousands of others took during the Trump administration.
- The increase in asylum-seekers is "not the work of any single individual," an expert told Insider.
Haitians who arrived in the thousands at the US-Mexico border in recent weeks did so for a multitude of personal but similar reasons.
Having already fled the poorest country in the Western hemisphere, many found menial work in recent years as temporary laborers elsewhere. But discrimination, a lack of permanent legal status, and a pandemic that wrecked economies across the Americas compelled many to head north in search of the refuge.
But some Americans have reduced the spontaneous actions of people abroad to political fights here at home. That has meant the likes of Fox News' Tucker Carlson pushing the white-nationalist conspiracy theory that liberals are scheming to "replace" white voters, the same claim that has galvanized far-right terrorists from El Paso to New Zealand.
This time around, however, it's not just right-wing demagogues pushing a curious explanation for the ancient practice of crossing borders for a better life.
On social media, a global conspiracy has been alleged by a number of people who would abhor any comparison between them and former President Donald Trump, who claimed "migrant caravans" that occurred under his administration were organized by billionaire George Soros. But the claims are remarkably similar in their general thrust: that someone with a political agenda must be behind mass migration.
"Evidence is piling up that Jason Miller organized a caravan of Haitian migrants from Brazil to create the 'border crisis' that the GOP is talking about," claims one post that has been shared thousands of times. Another user framed their conspiracy as just asking questions. "Did Trump adviser Jason Miller organize the 15,000 Haitians to travel from Brazil to Del Rio, Texas? Was this all just a publicity stunt to attack Biden and stoke MAGA anti-immigrant fire?"
And there are many other posts like them - enough that, by Monday, a co-creator of The Big Bang Theory was publicly wondering about it.
-Bill Prady (@billprady) September 27, 2021
The conspiracy theory goes that Miller, a former senior advisor to Trump who was interrogated by police while on a visit to Brazil in early September, worked with the country's right-wing president, Jair Bolsonaro, to gin up a political controversy. As far as evidence goes, that is the extent of it, the lack of detail filled with pure conjecture: that he was there; that Bolsonaro is the Trump of South America; and that you should connect the dots.
At the same time as some liberals are pushing a conspiracy theory involving Haitians, Trump, and Brazil, their conservative counterparts - unaware that these migrants fled Haiti years before - are sharing memes on Facebook suggesting those who "want the USA destroyed" flew from the island nation to the US-Mexico border, as Reuters reported.
It's all nonsense, according to Michelle Mittelstadt of the Migration Policy Institute, a nonpartisan think tank in Washington, DC.
"The story of Haitian migration to and from Brazil is a nuanced one and owes to complex and changing factors, not the work of any single individual," she told Insider. Many began to arrive after the 2010 earthquake in Haiti, when Brazil's previous center-left government had offered them humanitarian visas. There, they found ample work, with the country experiencing a construction boom ahead of the 2014 World Cup and the 2016 Olympics.
Then the jobs faded away. Haitians began to look elsewhere, such as Chile, where they encountered racism and a higher cost of living. "These conditions were exacerbated with the arrival of the pandemic, which significantly worsened economic conditions, particularly for migrants working informally," Mittelstadt said. With the arrival of Biden in the White House, there was a "perception of easing immigration policies," and so thousands of Haitians made their way north, following a path previously taken by tens of thousands of others in the years before.
At the border, thousands have seen firsthand how wrong their perceptions were. Although many of those who camped out under the international bridge in Del Rio, Texas, have had their asylum claims processed - after images of Border Patrol agents on horseback charging at the huddled masses - thousands of others were put on deportation flights back to Haiti, the White House cited its disputed authority under Title 42, a Trump-era policy that exploited the pandemic to justify closing the border to asylum seekers.
It's an unpleasant reality for liberals who hoped the Biden administration would quickly dismantle the last president's border regime, not just make it softer around the edges. It's also difficult for those on the right convinced that Democrats are committed to anything close to "open borders." To cope, people on both sides of the aisle have resorted to partisan fantasies that reduce migrants to faceless pawns of shadowy political actors.
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