FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: September 21, 2021
Washington — Today, the #WelcomeWithDignity campaign expressed its disgust with Customs and Border Protection’s treatment of Haitian people seeking asylum at Del Rio, Texas. The campaign joined dozens of other national organizations and expressed steadfast solidarity with Haitian communities and Haitian-led organizations including #WelcomeWithDignity partner Haitian Bridge Alliance. The campaign called on the United States to immediately halt expulsions to Haiti, end the misuse of Title 42, and examine the pattern of unconscionable abuse of Black asylum seekers by CBP. Human Rights First and the Haitian Bridge Alliance released a fact sheet today on the Biden administration’s dangerous Haitian expulsion strategy and the U.S. history of illegal and discriminatory mistreatment of Haitians seeking safety in the United States.
“The abuse we are witnessing right now against Haitian asylum seekers in Del Rio is abhorrent. The images of Border Patrol officers on horseback chasing and whipping Black Haitians looking for safety following a devastating earthquake and political crisis in Haiti clearly demonstrates the direct linkage between our modern policing institutions and slave patrols – and is a condemnation of the U.S.’ continued investment in the militarization of our southern border which has enabled such violence against primarily Black and Brown migrants and families,” said Fernando García, executive director of the Border Network for Human Rights. “Seeking asylum is a legal right, and the Biden administration is violating that right by deporting Haitian asylum seekers en masse without due process. We demand that President Biden and Secretary Mayorkas conduct an investigation into the events in Del Rio against Haitian migrants, and hold Border Patrol and all involved parties accountable. Additionally, we call on Congress to ensure these horrors at our border never happen again by enacting legislation on Border Patrol accountability to stop abuses and protect the rights of all migrants, regardless of their race or country of origin.”
“Ramping up expulsions after a federal court ruled the Title 42 policy illegal is outrageous,” said Blaine Bookey, Legal Director at the Center for Gender & Refugee Studies (CGRS) and co-counsel in the Huisha-Huisha v. Mayorkas case. “Sending Haitians back to a place where many will face violence, homelessness, and even death without so much as asking whether they have a fear of return is unlawful and unconscionable. CGRS has been working closely with Haitian civil society groups for over two decades. Our partners on the ground report that conditions have never been so dire, even in post-coup periods. President Biden has chosen to embrace the anti-refugee, anti-Black agenda of the Trump administration, and Haitians and their allies will not forget it.”
“What is happening in Del Rio right now will go down in history as a shameful symbol of racist and inhumane U.S. border policies designed to expel, divide and exploit people in search of safety,” stated Ian Philabaum, Program Director with Innovation Law Lab. “The Biden Administration can either continue down its path to a legacy of racist border enforcement or halt deportation flights to Haiti and welcome people with dignity.”
“The Biden administration’s treatment of our Haitian neighbors lacks a moral compass. We are horrified by the administration’s cruel and inhumane treatment of Haitians seeking refuge in the United States,” said Meredith Owen, Director of Policy and Advocacy for Church World Service. “Faith communities are shocked by the administration’s resumption of deportations and expulsions of Haitian asylum seekers and immigrants, without regard for the life-threatening consequences, and strongly oppose unlawful Title 42 expulsions that persist. We urge the administration to immediately halt removals to Haiti, end all Title 42 expulsions and restore asylum protections, and hold CBP accountable for its abuses against Haitian migrants.”
“The Biden administration’s misuse of Title 42 to expel people to danger and refusal to restart asylum aren’t just moral stains on the administration’s record, they directly violate and subvert U.S. refugee law and international treaties,” said Eleanor Acer, Senior Director of Refugee Protection at Human Rights First. “From its horrific treatment of Haitians at the border to its pursuit of a policy that public health experts have confirmed is a xenophobic ploy rooted in racism, the Biden administration continues to wage, not wind down, President Trump’s all-out war on people seeking protection and the U.S asylum system.”
“We cannot and will not stop shining the spotlight on this administration for its horrific treatment of Haitian people seeking asylum,” said Jonathan Goldman, Executive Director of the Student Clinic for Immigrant Justice. “This is what you get from a system built on a history of white supremacy. Too few people realize the first immigration laws enacted by the US were to ensure citizenship for free white people. When we have a system built on racism, it doesn’t just go away with time. We must transform our immigration system and hold the government accountable for its actions. The Biden administration must immediately suspend removals to Haiti and end Title 42 once and for all.”
“The deportation of individuals from Haiti is heartbreaking to watch, and reminiscent of the cruel and illegal policies of the previous administration. It is unacceptable and we implore the Biden administration to halt Title 42 expulsions immediately and keep its earlier promise to restore protection pathways to the US,” said Nili Sarit Yossinger, Executive Director of Refugee Congress.
“The brutal mis-treatment of Haitians at Del Rio and their expulsion to a country in crisis is a human rights catastrophe and represents America at its worst, said Yael Schacher, Senior U.S. Advocate at Refugees International. “The flights to Haiti must stop and we must treat Haitians seeking refuge at the border with dignity and due process.”
“For an administration that has stated that Black lives matter to them, the photos that circulated the media yesterday point to a different reality. That is the reality that this administration continues to view Black & Indigenous bodies as disposable” said Dr. Jessica Hernandez, Climate Justice Policy Strategist for International Mayan League. “The administration should call those officers shown in the photos beating Haitain refugees into question—this should also be grounds for asylum because those officers violated their human rights. No person should be subjected to this malicious treatment or policing. The administration should also remediate the violence Haitain climate refugees and asylum seekers experienced by halting the deportation flights. They should come through as an administration that stands for Black lives and do just by our Haitain relatives. The International Mayan League was deeply hurt by those photos and those photos only captured seconds of all the horrendous austracities our Haitain relatives were facing at the hands of this administration. Shame on any political leader who does not use their voice to speak against this.”
“The Biden Administration should be ashamed of its reprehensible, racist treatment of Haitian refugees fleeing political turmoil and environmental disaster,” said Adela de la Torre, deputy director of Justice Action Center. “President Biden must end the double speak and finally follow through on his campaign promises to end Title 42 and treat all immigrants with dignity. We join Black, immigrant-led groups in demanding the administration cease all deportation flights to Haiti, grant humanitarian parole and assistance to Haitian asylum seekers, and investigate CBP’s violence against Haitians in Del Rio, Texas.”
“This is a clear moment, where we have a choice in how we welcome some of the world’s most vulnerable people fleeing the effects of climate change and political instability, said Nicole Melaku, executive director of the National Partnership for New Americans. The expulsion of thousands of Hatian migrants without the opportunity to process their claim for asylum or other protected status is a moral failure of our nation and the continued use of TItle 42 is simply reprehensible at a time when this administration should be seeking to undo the immeasurable harm of this racist policy from the last administration. We cannot inch our way toward welcoming Black migrants and turn our heads to ignore the horrific conditions and humanitarian crisis unfolding before us.
“The cruelty rooted in hate, white supremacy, and xenophobia that shaped US immigration policies for years continue to brutally harm and oppress millions of people today,” said Denise Bell, researcher for refugee and migrant rights at Amnesty International USA. “The Biden administration has had months to reshape how the United States treats and welcomes people and time and time again, it has failed. People seeking safety deserve much better than this from an administration that promised humanity and dignity. It’s well past time for the US to uphold the right of all people to seek safety in this country and center the dignity and humanity of Haitians seeking safety.”
“CLINIC condemns the Biden administration’s unconscionable decision to increase the deportation of thousands of Haitian asylum seekers arriving at the U.S. border pleading to save their lives,” said Anna Gallagher, CLINIC executive director. “This decision is bad domestic, bad foreign policy, immoral and inhumane. It is hypocritical to redesignate Temporary Protected Status for Haiti, based on the conclusion that it is too dangerous for people to return to Haiti pre-earthquake, and now take this decision to expedite deportations to even worse conditions.
CLINIC wishes to make clear to every Black asylum seeker and immigrant that we see you and your lives matter. To our Black immigrant partners – we stand in solidarity and action with you at this horrific moment and for as long as it takes to eradicate anti-Black racism and policy from the U.S. immigration system.”
“It is unconscionable and unfathomably cruel that the Biden administration is ramping up removal flights to Haiti at a time when the country is reeling from the aftermath of a catastrophic earthquake and the assassination of its president,” said Laura St. John, Legal Director at the Florence Immigrant & Refugee Rights Project. “Despite the fact that the Biden administration has designated Haiti for Temporary Protected Status and a court last week ruled that expelling families under Title 42 is illegal, the administration nevertheless appears determined to slam the doors to the United States shut to Haitians seeking safe refuge. We strongly urge the administration to immediately reverse course, halt all planned deportation flights, and allow Haitians seeking asylum the opportunity to exercise their right to request safety and protection here in the United States.”
Carolina Martin Ramos, Esq., Co-Executive Director, Comunidad Maya Pixan Ixim, stated: “The world watches as U.S. immigration authorities, reminiscent of slave patrols, whip Black refugees at the southern border. How many times will we watch news of Black and Brown bodies subjected to violence and death at the hands of CBP? Besides Federal Indian Law, U.S. immigration policies are some of the most obvious examples of white supremacy under U.S. settler colonial law and policy. It is 2021 and under the Biden administration, we are still seeing horrific images of Black bodies subjected to state violence. We stand with our Black and African descent relatives to demand that our Haitian relatives seeking asylum are treated with dignity and respect. We cannot ignore these serious human rights violations by the U.S. government on Indigenous stolen lands. U.S. political interventions along with corporate business interests have created the conditions that continue to displace African descent and Indigenous peoples from places like Haiti and Guatemala. U.S. foreign policies effectively force us to seek asylum in the U.S. and then U.S. immigration officials brutalize us when we seek to assert our rights to seek asylum under international laws. These human rights abuses are delegitimizing the United States in the world’s eyes and showing that the U.S. has never really stood as a beacon for human rights. We stand adamantly in our commitment to fight for the dignity and human rights of our Black and Haitian relatives and CMPI stands with all our relations to decry all violence and suffering caused by settler colonialism and white supremacy on stolen lands.”
“The inhumane brutality exercised at the southern border by CBP officials using horse whips to attack and terrorize Haitian migrants brings to light the xenophobic and white supremacist foundations of our immigration system. An investigation must take place immediately to hold those involved accountable. The administration must look long and hard at these images and recommit to a complete rehaul of our asylum system starting with ending Title 42, immediate suspension of deportation flights to Haiti, and increased parole for Haitian migrants. DHS must address the appallingly toxic culture of CBP immediately. By ignoring the demands of Haitian-led organizations like Haitian Bridge, the administration is choosing to perpetuate anti-blackness. We will not stand idly by and allow this to happen to our Haitian community.” – Joyce Noche, Legal Services Director, Immigrant Defenders Law Center
Michele Garnett McKenzie, Deputy Director of The Advocates for Human Rights, stated: “The Advocates for Human Rights is outraged by the physical assaults and verbal abuse of Haitians by U.S. Customs and Border Protection officers in Del Rio. This conduct violates the fundamental human right to seek asylum and runs counter to our values as a nation. DHS must take immediate action to investigate and hold individuals accountable for these human rights violations. DHS also must fix the systemic failures and toxic organizational culture which allows abuses like this to occur. The United States must commit to a migration system that recognizes and holds people accountable for ensuring human dignity.”
“We are appalled by the cruel treatment we’ve seen from U.S. border officials towards Haitians along the U.S.-Mexico border. To expel Haitian families and adults back to a country suffering multiple crises, when even Haitian government officials have said they cannot accept people, is unconscionable. A federal court has already ruled that the Title 42 policy is illegal, it’s time to end it. We urge the Biden Administration to immediately halt removals of Haitians and instead utilize humanitarian parole to process them fairly, ensuring that all those who seek protection can do so humanely. We can do better as a country and extend a welcoming hand to our Haitian neighbors. This is not who we are,” states Daniella Burgi-Palomino, LAWG Co-director.
“It is reprehensible that Haitian families seeking safety amidst political violence and a devastating earthquake at home are met with anti-Black violence and no real opportunity to seek protection at the U.S. border,” said Katharina Obser, director of the Migrant Rights and Justice Program at the Women’s Refugee Commission. “That the administration is choosing to respond to Haitians seeking safety by increasing removal flights full of families, including children, back to Haiti continues its morally indefensible and unlawful deterrence tactics and denies those legally seeking safety any meaningful chance to do so. We urge the Biden administration and Secretary Mayorkas to enact desperately needed accountability for what is happening along the border, and to once and for all ensure Haitian migrants can exercise their legal right to seek asylum with dignity.”
“We demand a full and immediate reversal by the Biden Administration on its approach to this situation,” said Efrén Olivares, deputy legal director of the SPLC’s Immigrant Justice Project. “Without one, and without holding federal officers accountable for abusing Haitian immigrants and asylum seekers, the U.S. will abdicate any remaining hopes of retaining moral legitimacy on human rights issues. At this point, the U.S. is not only flouting its legal obligations to asylum seekers but also perpetuating anti-immigrant and anti-Black racism.”
“Seeking asylum is a fundamental human and legal right. Yet, thousands of Haitians who survived devastating natural disasters and political violence are being dehumanized, denied due process, and violently and forcibly returned to the very conditions they fled,” said Marielena Hincapié, executive director of the National Immigration Law Center. “This is legally and morally unacceptable. President Biden was elected on a campaign promise to undo the harm of four years under the Trump administration, which decimated the systems set up to protect people seeking safety. Instead of striving to keep that promise, the Biden administration has instead doubled down on a failed and inhumane strategy of deterrence and exacerbated the harm to vulnerable communities. We urge the Biden administration to immediately stop all deportations to Haiti and end all policies that deprive people of their rights at the border. The administration must chart a different course to welcome those seeking safety with dignity and humanity.”
“Jesuit Refugee Service/USA is deeply concerned about the U.S. decision to ramp up deportation of Haitian migrants, particularly after the courts deemed Title 42 illegal, said Joan Rosenhauer, Executive Director of JRS/USA. Disturbing images of CBP officers committing terrible acts of violence against Haitian migrants only highlight the abuse some defenseless migrants face in the process of deportation. The U.S. must offer protection to those seeking safety at our border and work towards rebuilding the U.S. asylum system. The Biden Administration needs to stop deporting refugees based on a Trump-era policy that has no scientific basis and only places migrants and refugees in harm’s way.”
“We stand in solidarity with our partners in condemning the horrific treatment of Haitian asylum seekers and calling out the long history of discrimination against Black migrants,” said Carmen Maria Rey, U.S. Legal Services Director of the International Refugee Assistance Project (IRAP). “The Biden administration must be held accountable for continuing, and in some cases, expanding, the hateful policies of the previous administration. Seeking asylum is legal. Brutally denying migrants their human rights is not. The Biden administration must immediately end Title 42 expulsions and suspend deportations to Haiti.”
“Yesterday 45 children were reportedly deported to Haiti. 45 children. What about the dangers of return in the midst of political turmoil, an earthquake disaster, hunger and a Covid-strained medical system? Are returnees even tested, or are we exporting Covid? There are 4 flights scheduled to Port-au-Prince today. How many of those deported are families, mothers, babies?” said Thomas Cartwright, Leadership Team at Witness at the Border. “The images of CBP on horseback running down migrants delivering food to the hungry are disgusting and disturbing. We need to stop expelling migrants back to danger. And we need to stop pretending that Title 42 is about public health; it’s merely another tool to say, ‘Don’t come.’ Let them in!”