President George H.W. Bush grappled with the surge of Haitian refugees after the 1991 coup that overthrew the president at the time, Jean-Bertrand Aristide. Mr. Bush first ordered their detention at the Guantanamo Bay Naval Base and in 1992 ordered the Coast Guard to directly return home any migrant Haitians intercepted at sea.
The refugees then became a campaign issue, with Bill Clinton denouncing Mr. Bush for “a cruel policy of returning Haitian refugees to a brutal dictatorship without an asylum hearing.” But in response to reports that 150,000 Haitians were poised to land on American soil immediately after his 1993 inauguration, Mr. Clinton said he would continue Mr. Bush’s policy.
Political turmoil elsewhere in the Americas has also set off waves of mass migration in recent years, perhaps most notably in Venezuela, where a different standoff over who had the authority to lead the country played out with devastating consequences for the country — and for the region at large.
Accusing the ruling party of stealing the election, Venezuela’s congressional speaker, Juan Guaidó, proclaimed himself the nation’s rightful leader, setting off a diplomatic limbo that ultimately worsened what already was a severe economic crisis.
Dozens of nations, including the United States, recognized Mr. Guaidó as Venezuela’s president. But countries like Russia, China and Iran continued backing the nation’s authoritarian leader, Nicolás Maduro, who refused to relinquish power. The dueling factions inside Venezuela created competing parliaments, supreme courts and central banks — even parallel boards of the state energy company.
Even with crippling American sanctions that robbed the Venezuelan government of its most important source of revenue, oil, the Trump administration could not force Mr. Maduro from power. But as his country collapsed, millions more Venezuelans fled, spreading out across the region in search of work, food and escape from the chaos.
Ryan C. Berg, a senior fellow at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington, said that while Haiti’s travails were “pretty unique,” they also represented a new example of challenges to Western democracies more broadly.