Haitian migrants and advocates call for justice on one-year anniversary of Del Rio abuses

Campaign Action

“It’s been one year since I was deported to Haiti. For the time being, I’m in Haiti because whatever means we had, we spent it, and we lost our identification papers, they threw away all our possessions and we lost a lot of things,” a migrant identified as “Jacques” said. Here at Daily Kos we’ve written about widespread abuses against Sikh asylum-seekers, including Customs and Border Protection (CBP) agents discarding sacred items.

“The American government harmed us a great deal, treated us badly when we were in prison,” he continued. “I feel a lot of regret and fear, when I look at the situation I managed to flee only to be returned to it.”

He’s among the migrants who are now plaintiffs in Haitian Bridge Alliance-led litigation against the federal government, alleging “abusive treatment in the CBP Encampment and expelled without an opportunity to access the U.S. asylum system.” Esther (also not her real name, for her protection) was also targeted, saying that U.S. border agents “had no pity for anyone.” 

“They came and told us, ‘Return to Mexico,’” she said. “They did not want to hear what we had to say. When we tried to reason with them, they did not cooperate. What they set out to do that day, they would do no matter what.”

Advocates plan a vigil to the White House this Friday, to urge justice for deported Haitians and an end deportations that the Biden administration has known to be unjust. BuzzFeed News reported last winter that the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) civil rights office had warned that Haitian deportations under the Title 42 policy “would risk ‘refoulement,’ a term for sending an asylum-seeker back to a country where they will likely face persecution, in violation of human rights and international refugee law.” Of course, this is something that experts and advocates had been publicly screaming for some time.

But while DHS told border agents on the ground this past March that they had discretion to exempt Ukrainians who had arrived to the southern border after fleeing Russia’s unprovoked invasion, no similar effort was undertaken for Haitians.

“While it is heartening to see DHS acknowledge that they don’t have to turn away asylum-seekers, that hasn’t been applied to people from other countries,” Human Rights First associate director Kennji Kizuka told CBS News at the time. “Where were the exemptions for Haitian asylum-seekers arriving last fall?”

“We urge the U.S. government to bring back all Haitian asylum seekers who were denied their right to seek safety so that they can justly pursue their asylum claims,” Justice Action Center said. “To truly address anti-Blackness in the asylum process, there must be equity in processing at the border, language access for Black/African and Indigenous migrants, more culturally specific and accessible resources for humanitarian assistance for Black migrants, and an end to Title 42 and other deterrence policies that disproportionately harm Black migrants.”

“We are calling for an end of Title 42,” said Haitian Bridge Alliance president Guerline M. Jozef. “We cannot in good conscience continue the same system that was put in place by the previous government. When running for president, @JoeBiden said his goal was to restore the soul of America. What we saw under the bridge in September in Del Rio was not restoring the soul of America, it was condemning the soul of America.”

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