Haitian Migrants Face Discrimination, Inhuman Treatment at the Border While CBP Fails to be Held Accountable
Washington, D.C.- As we approach the commemoration of Juneteenth this Sunday (observed as a federal holiday on Monday) and observe World Refugee Day on Monday June 20, the lack of accountability and support for Haitian migrants fleeing dangerous in-country conditions is coming into full focus.
Multiple incidents of mistreatment highlight the callousness and racism of border patrol agents, who have largely not been held accountable for the harm inflicted on Haitian migrants:
- Last fall, images surfaced of U.S. Border Patrol agents on horseback chasing Haitian migrants returning with food to a camp at the border. Now, an unofficial commemorative coin has surfaced, depicting the mistreatment of Haitians in Del Rio, TX. Text on the coin reads, “You will not be returned”, and “Yesterday’s border is not today’s border.” Though Customs and Border Protection has announced they will investigate the origins of the coin, the results of the investigation on the original mistreatment of migrants has still not been made public.
- In an article for the LA Times, For Haitian migrants, waiting in Tijuana brings fear, discrimination, even death, Kate Morrisey reports on the dangerous conditions at the U.S.- Mexico Border. Deaths at the border have become all too common, “usually either caused by violent attacks during a robbery or rejection by hospitals and clinics when Haitians attempt to seek medical care.” Racist attitudes on both sides of the border mean that refugees rarely have access to the conditions, care and facilities they need to safely make their journey.
- In an investigative piece spanning 8 months, US-expelled Haitians fuel charter business to Latin America, the Associated Press reports that Haitians are driving a boom in charter flights: “From November 2020 until this May, at least 128 charters were rented by travel agencies in Chile and Brazil for flights from Haiti…Since taking office in January 2021, the Biden administration has sent more than 25,000 Haitians back to Haiti despite warnings from human rights groups that the expulsions would only contribute to Haiti’s travails and feed more Haitian migration to Latin America and the U.S…Dan Foote, a former U.S. envoy to Haiti who resigned over the Biden administration’s handling of Haitians at the Texas border, said he is not surprised to hear Haitians expelled from the U.S. are making their way back to South America, and that businesses are lining up to help them. ‘Until the root causes of instability are truly attacked in a patient, systematic, holistic way, it’s going to keep going,’ Foote said.”
- In May, at least 11 Haitians were killed when a boat capsized near Puerto Rico. As more Haitians seek survival and flee their country due to worsening gang violence, political instability, poverty, and the impacts of the climate crisis and natural dissasters, and as conditions and discrimination at the border worsen, more migrants are opting to attempt dangerous water passages to the United States.
- Guerline Josef, President of the Haitian Bridge Alliance, participated in a funeral service for those killed, and tweeted, “Today we pay honor to the Haitian migrants who lost their lives in search of ‘LIFE’ off the coast of Puerto Rico. 11 young women and countless others who were not found. I’m tired of burying my compatriots.”
The larger trend of anti-black racism and nativism within the GOP, showcased specifically in ad campaigns, was recently highlighted in an America’s Voice Blog post written by Donroy Ferdinand Jr.:
“In September 2021, Haitian families looking for safety made the perilous journey to the United States border to make their legal claim for asylum. Fleeing the instability of a nation suffering from a recent presidential assassination and back-to-back devastating natural disasters, they made their way to Del Rio, Texas. … But their temporary encampment barely lasted two weeks before all the Haitian migrants were moved to processing facilities. Most of them were then deported, many without even being given the ability to make an asylum claim.
Enter a right-wing media ecosystem that thrives off clicks from nativists’ fear-mongering headlines and images of refugees and asylum seekers at points of desperation. And a Republican Party that had been relentlessly driving a disingenuous political narrative about a “Biden Border Crisis” for the prior six months as part of their fundraising and base mobilization midterm election strategy. …The number and the money behind these ads show the initial use of these tactics in a strategic way to win voters by weaponizing the anti-Black racism and xenophobia for their own selfish benefit.
The anti-blackness woven into the fabric of America needs to be addressed in order to combat erroneous claims about all immigrants. When Americans already view racial differences as something negative and to be feared, it is much easier to label one group as ‘other’ and endanger them. To fully address this problem will require deep and substantial change across many of our institutions. This division will continue to have a corrosive effect until such change is made. But while the problem is deep and exploiting racism for political gain is nothing new, we must continue to be vigilant about naming it where it occurs and holding those to employ this disgusting tactic accountable.
The language and tactics employed to weaponize these images is dangerous. Every time a lawmaker engages in this kind of activity they leave their constituents vulnerable to violent white nationalists and put all Americans at risk for their attempts at selfish political gain.”
According to Douglas Rivlin, Director of Communications for America’s Voice:
“The urgent need for the U.S. to welcome with dignity those seeking safety has never been clearer. Yet, as we commemorate Juneteenth and World Refugee Day, it is obvious that racism, xenophobia and apathy are contributing to continued loss of life and deprivation for refugees around the world and those fleeing Haiti in particular. As our colleague Guerline Jozef of the Haitian Bridge Alliance put it in a tweet after the funerals for 11 lives lost off the coast of Puerto Rico, ‘I’m tired of burying my compatriots.’ The Biden administration, the Congress and the American people can do more to protect the lives of those seeking survival and opportunity, we just need to summon the will to do so.”