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People who have been to the U.S.-Mexico border, and even crossed into Matamoros, Reynosa or other northern Mexican cities, probably have seen a major demographic change. More people approaching our border, or waiting in Mexico to see if they are admitted into this country, are from Haiti; creole French is becoming increasingly common here.

Haiti, the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere, has been mired in gang-related chaos for years, and it’s getting worse. We can, and should, expect the flood of Haitian refugees to increase, and we must demand that our elected officials do something about it.

Americans have been fleeing the country to escape the increasing, and increasingly violent, gang warfare, and many have reported that it’s getting harder to reach airports and get out. The situation is raising images of the fall of Saigon in 1975.

Haiti essentially has no government. It has had no president since Jovenel Moise was assassinated in 2021, and no elections have been held since before then.

A woman squeezes through a human chain of volunteers as she is given the go ahead to pass through for a plate of free food, at a shelter for families displaced by gang violence in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, Thursday, March 14, 2024. (Odelyn Joseph/AP Photo)

A coalition of officials from other Caribbean countries has been working to empanel a committee to schedule and hold elections and name interim officials; Prime Minister Ariel Henry last week announced his resignation from Puerto Rico, where he is living in de facto exile.

Refugees from the country already have temporary protected status in the U.S., meaning their requests for asylum are given more weight because of the dire conditions there. However, Haiti is just one of nearly 20 countries whose citizens have TPS here, ranging from Cuba to Afghanistan to Ukraine — and observers expect Ecuador to be added to the list soon as conditions there deteriorate also.

As much of the world appears to be falling apart, we can expect ever-growing numbers of people coming to this country seeking refuge. We can also expect more people without valid asylum claims to try to get lost in the crowd by requesting refugee status even if they don’t qualify.

All this only increases the strain on our overtaxed immigration system that has been neglected for decades. Our elected officials’ abject refusal to address the obsolete laws and unworkable bureaucracy has created a backlog of millions of people and years of wait times that only grow worse as the numbers of asylum seekers increase. And still, those officials, and other politicians seeking to replace them, prefer to use the crisis as a convenient campaign issue rather than look for solutions.

Our ineptitude and outright refusal to improve our immigration process has created that crisis — and yes, it’s a real crisis. And as we look across the border we have to ask ourselves: if we’ve already allowed things to get this bad, what would happen if the cartels finally gain control of Mexico, and the number of people queued up at our border seeking asylum turns from the current thousands to millions, all with valid claims?

It’s long past time to set absolute laws and policies to address such issues, and to improve the process of reviewing claims and rendering decisions in a matter of days rather than years.

Our flow of refugees isn’t likely to improve anytime soon. Our ability to deal with them has to.