Washington, DC – Below is a column by Maribel Hastings and David Torres from America’s Voice en Español translated to English from Spanish.
As we commemorate Black History Month and recognize the achievements, contributions, and challenges this community faces—the community that faithfully lead the struggle for civil rights in this nation—we inevitably reflect upon what we, as other minority groups, have in common at a time when non-Anglo Saxon sectors of society are in a constant state of attack on diverse fronts.
It seemed as if the constant insults, full of hate and discrimination, would start to diminish following the unseating of former President Donald Trump, whose policies against minorities set the United States back to humanely unacceptable times in history; but the resurgence of this sickening rhetoric of hate, which is being used electorally once again, makes one think about the long road that remains ahead when it comes to human rights here.
Although our histories as minorities are diverse and different, and African Americans have the unique and sad fact that their ancestors were brought to this country as slaves, it’s also true that we are united in the fight against racism, xenophobia, inequality, and today’s very real Republican attempts to repress minorities’ right to vote.
This extremely negative situation that affects us, as minority groups, is becoming the common thread of this new chapter: defending the right to exist and interact in an environment where liberties do not have to be haggled for, much less the ability to exercise them given up.
Moreover, we also cannot forget that some minorities, like Latinos, also have African heritage: that “third race” that was rendered invisible for a long time, but now has to be reclaimed as profoundly ours, to strengthen our indestructible cultural and historic ties even more.
But among the community of undocumented immigrants with African roots, Haitians are perhaps the most forgotten and ignored, despite the rich history of Haiti and its fingerprints on this country from centuries ago, long before the 1960s and 1970s, when thousands of Haitians established their lives here, particularly in south Florida and northeastern cities of the United States.
And, when talking about regional independences are discussed, it is almost always forgotten that Haiti was the first nation to abolish slavery and declare its independence, during the epic revolt (1791-1804) that fills the history of this Caribbean nation with glory.
But as often occurs throughout history with the development of nations and their imbalances due to corruption, violence, poverty, and lack of structural support, waves of migrants have created and continue to create a vicious cycle that, to this day, has no end. In recent years, as in previous times, Haitians—immersed in crisis after crisis, whether due to politics or natural disasters, from earthquakes to hurricanes—have been forced to leave their nation in search of a better future.
On the other hand, U.S. immigration policy toward Haitians has been chaotic and prejudiced. Who can forget the heartbreaking images of Haitians crowded along the border between the U.S. and Mexico, in subhuman conditions, being chased by border agents, even on horseback, as if they were hunting prey.
In December 2021 the group Haitian Bridge Alliance had already identified and brought to light a series of problems the Haitian immigrant community was facing in the U.S.-Mexico border region, especially in Texas. They mention, among other things, the “denial of access to available attorneys and interpreters; inadequate medical care; absence of required fear-based screening; blocking media access; inadequate food and water; physical intimidation by CBP agents; and misleading statements by DHS.”
Today, thousands of Haitian refugees are stranded in Mexico because the United States, during the presidency of Democrat Joe Biden, continues to apply the Trump administration’s Title 42 policy, arguing that restrictions due to the COVID pandemic require asylum seekers to make their applications from Mexico, where they become victims of crime, violence, and racism.
Since March 2020, for example, thousands of migrants with solid asylum cases have been expelled to Mexico and even to their countries of origin. For example, since September 2021 the Biden administration has deported more than 14,000 Haitians to a broken nation that cannot absorb them nor attend to their most basic necessities. As the poorest economy in the Latin American and Caribbean region, it would be difficult for Haiti to recuperate in the short term, taking into account the most recent data from the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean, which indicates that this region “will see its pace of growth decelerate in 2022 to 2.1%, after reaching 6.2% on average last year.”
On top of that, the report cites “uncertainty regarding the pandemic’s ongoing evolution, a sharp deceleration in growth, continued low investment and productivity and a slow recovery in employment, the persistence of the social effects prompted by the crisis, reduced fiscal space, increased inflationary pressures and financial imbalances.”
In the specific case of Haiti, the World Bank adds for its part, that “60% of Haiti’s population, or 6.3 million people, remain poor and 24%, or 2.5 million people, extremely poor.”
So although this disastrous public policy of deportations implemented by the U.S. government affects migrants from all over, the Haitian example—for its crudeness and because it plainly involves racial prejudices—is beyond offensive. Just think: if those migrants, Haitian or not, were white with blond hair and blue eyes, would they be treated the same way?
We must all commemorate Black history because, in some form or another, we are interconnected. We cannot forget what we have in common: a past and present struggle against racism and prejudice, which continue to show their ugly faces today, in the 21st century.
Read the Spanish version of this column here.