WASHINGTON, DC – Yesterday, leaders and experts held a press call on the treatment of Black migrants and Haitians in particular. The call was held in reaction to the release a week ago of an official report from Customs and Border Protection (CBP) into an incident in Del Rio, Texas where federal and state law enforcement mistreated Haitian migrants. The report was woefully inadequate, failed to interview any Haitian witnesses and has so far failed to yield any concrete changes to policy or practices. The incident is the subject of continued litigation, which hopefully will bring accountability and justice to the matter. Leaders from the Haitian-American community, Black-led immigrant rights organizations, U.S. civil rights organizations, advocates and service providers discussed the report and how it is emblematic of larger issues facing migrants, refugees and asylum seekers, especially Black and Afro-Latino and Haitian migrants. They also discussed how the anti-immigration policies and politics in Texas and Governor Abbott’s continuing attacks made the specific incident and the broader immigration debate – more violent and toxic.
“The self-serving investigation from CBP illustrates white supremacy, centuries of exploitation, and multiple failures of the U.S. immigration system,” said Guerline M. Jozef, Co-Founder and Executive Director of the Haitian Bridge Alliance. “The agency chose not to interview any Haitians who witnessed abuse from CBP officers. Several individuals who witnessed officers on horseback whipping at Haitians with their horse reins on September 19 were made available for interviews, including the man whose pictures went viral as he fled border patrol officers. This investigation was not about truth or justice. We stand undeterred with and on behalf of Black and other immigrants in search of safety and protection, and we invite you to join us as we continue to combat the white supremacy, anti-Blackness and systematic racism that always seeks to intimidate, hurt, and demonize Black people. We will not stop demanding justice and accountability from the Biden-Harris administration and everyone involved in what happened in Del Rio. Immigration is a Black issue.”
“Gov. Abbott’s Operation Lone Star (OLS) program is a political stunt, plain and simple, and his attempt to legislate immigration policy is a blatant overreach of his power. The governor created the program to earn political points by targeting and terrorizing immigrant communities, and real people, especially Black immigrants, are suffering and paying the price, like we witnessed in Del Rio,” said Nicole Morgan, Associate Attorney, RAICES. “While Abbott plays his political games, RAICES is doubling down on programs that will actually support the health and welfare of our communities: providing free to low-cost legal services, and continuing our advocacy to end Title 42, a racist, Trump-era policy that has decimated our asylum system, and forced people to make unimaginable choices in their journey to seek safety and refuge in the U.S. People seek asylum because their lives, and the lives of their children depend on it. Restoring a fair asylum process will help keep people safe and families together. That’s what we should be focusing on.”
“This sham investigation and report confirms what the civil rights community knows all too well: the harms that Black immigrants face at the hands of CBP at the border mirror the harms that Black people face in the interior of the country,” said Breanne J. Palmer, Immigration Policy Counsel, The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights. “What happened at Del Rio continues to be an urgent civil rights, racial justice, and immigrant rights issue that deserves both real accountability for the victims and real reform from the Biden administration and from DHS.”
“The incident we have now come to know and see, those sickening images of Black people being seemingly whipped and abused in Del Rio, TX in the United States of America September 19, 2021, is not an isolated incident. In fact, we have received reports and anecdotes over the years that this is a common practice of the United States administration. The Biden-Harris administration is no different,” said Patrice Lawrence, Executive Director, the UndocuBlack Network. “The actual people that endured this abuse have not been interviewed. Instead, these individuals, in mass, were deported. The DHS is culpable. We absolutely refute these reports. These reports are an insult to the people of the African diaspora. The DHS must strive to not be anti-Black.”