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ICYMI: Despite Disasters and Chaos, Haitian Immigrants Most Likely to Be Denied U.S. Asylum

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New reporting highlights racist treatment of Black immigrants 

In a piece for NPR, Marisa Peñaloza reports on the ongoing racism in the application of U.S. asylum policy and what Haitian migrants face in navigating a broken immigration system. Haitian immigrants are the most likely to be denied U.S. asylum, as thousands have been rejected entry in the past months. Haiti is in a state of emergency after recent natural disasters left thousands homeless, struggling with food insecurity, economic collapse, and a political system in chaos following a presidential assassination. Gangs control much of the country, and killing and kidnapping civilians for ransom is part of daily life. More than 40,000 have fled the violence. Those that reach the U.S.-Mexico border are met by a Biden administration that immediately expelled thousands back to Haiti, without even the opportunity to apply for asylum. 

Despite pushback from diplomats, experts and advocates about the dangerous and deadly conditions on the ground, the Biden Administration has continued deportation flights to Haiti. Advocates have tracked at least 75 flights in the last 30 days-with some 8,000 people- since horrifying images at the border in Del Rio caught national attention. Despite mounting criticism and escalating protests, the Biden Administration has continued to choose cruel and counterproductive policies over safety and humanity for Black immigrants. 

Following a national week of action and a new lawsuit filed by Lawyers for Civil Rights on behalf of Haitian migrants who faced abuse from U.S. border officials, the Biden Administration is facing mounting pressure to change how Black migrants are treated and rescind the previous administration’s Title 42 policy, which relies on a flimsy public health rationale to exclude and expel almost all asylum seekers.

The NPR article is excerpted below and can be read in full here.

“​​Like thousands of Haitians, Gibbens Revolus, his wife, Lugrid, and their 2-year-old son, Diego, made the treacherous journey to the U.S.-México border from Chile and ended up under the international bridge in Del Río, Texas, last month.

Photos from the makeshift camp in Del Río show desperation and unsanitary conditions where almost 15,000 Haitians hoped to apply for asylum. U.S. Border Patrol officers on horseback were seen corralling people, pushing them back to the Río Grande and onto México. 

I want people to understand the misery,” says Revolus who describes the journey as “hell.” Revolus can’t remember the exact date when his family started the journey to the the U.S. border. “Time blurs,” he says. But it took them almost three months of travel mostly by bus, many days by foot and the family crossed from Colombia to Panama in a jam-packed boat. Revolus says his infant son kept getting sick, constantly throwing up and having diarrhea.

Border Patrol officers detained the family in Del Río on Sept. 24 when the makeshift camp was cleared by authorities. They were taken to a detention center in Texas.

“We were not given the chance to make our case for asylum,” Revolus says. The family was put on a deportation flight to Haiti on Sept. 27.”

…“Many Haitians see U.S. immigration policy as historically racist and anti-Black – pointing to the U.S. occupation of Haiti from 1915 to 1934, including the support of a brutal dictatorship and the recent massive surge of migration in Del Río, Texas.”

… “The island nation has been battered by natural disasters, including earthquakes and hurricanes. A catastrophic quake in 2010 killed more than 220,000 Haitians, left several thousand injured and about 1.5 million homeless – that was the catalyst for the massive exodus of Haitians to Latin America.”