Masses of people fleeing a catastrophic earthquake, tropical storm, and ongoing political turmoil, sit, stand and lay huddled under a bridge in the blazing Texas heat. Border Patrol agents atop horses using whips to control asylum seekers carrying all their belongings in small, plastic bags. A man standing in the middle of the Rio Grande cradles a small boy.
The images are difficult to unsee.
These images of violence and abandonment are not only morally reprehensible, but also violate the U.S.’s own laws regarding the treatment of asylum seekers.
The Biden Administration has decided to force asylum-seeking Haitians back to their island, a place that the President himself recently deemed dangerous and unsafe for repatriation. Ongoing mass deportations have been authorized under the CDC’s Title 42, which allows for expedited deportations in the name of public health during the COVID-19 pandemic. In the Trump administration just under half a million people were removed under the law. The Biden administration has already used it to deport nearly 700,000 people.
Looking to history is vitally important for understanding the continual human-made catastrophes that the small Caribbean island nation has faced. In 1791, the first successful revolutionary rebellion of enslaved people took place in Haiti. For this victory, they were punished again and again, first, by being forced to pay restitution to French enslavers for their lost profits, then through the 20-year-long U.S. occupation and collusion with brutal dictators. Now, once again, the people of Haiti are suffering because of the relentless impact of climate catastrophe.
Despite the cataclysmic harms of U.S. imperialism, this country’s relationship with Haitian migrants has consistently been a fraught one. The Clinton administration routinely deported Haitians. In 2016, the Obama administration began mass deportations of Haitians who were granted temporary protective status after the 2010 earthquake resulting in the deaths of some 230,000 people. Ten months later, another 10,000 people died according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention as a result of the first-ever cholera outbreak in the country said to be caused by United Nations peacekeeping camps.
Two months later, when he entered office, President Donald Trump promised to create new bans, higher walls, and a seemingly never-ending proliferation of cages. Now, the Biden Administration is continuing the racist U.S. legacy by allowing shocking violence against a community fleeing devastation and seeking their fundamental (and legal) human right to asylum.
If the Biden Administration intends to honor its campaign promises to end the brutal immigration policies of the Trump Administration, they must center Haitian voices and listen to the experts at organizations such as Haitian Bridge Alliance, HERF, BAJI, the Black Collective and UndocuBlack Network in demanding an end to the expulsion flights forcing Haitian migrants back into the dire situation they have fled, and they must immediately grant humanitarian parole to the Black asylum seekers.
There are several clear demands from these Black voices for the Biden administration to take action. They must immediately:
● Halt deportations and end the use of Title 42 at the border and at all ports of entry.
● Enact wide scale humanitarian parole for Haitians.
● Defund and divest from DHS, ICE, and CBP
● Invest in humane, holistic immigration policy
There is nothing that anyone can say that can erase the images we have all borne witness to these last few days. There is no rationale that the Biden Administration can offer, after the horrific display of state sanctioned violence against people seeking asylum in the wake of catastrophe. There is only an age-old spectacle of violence that harkens back to days of chattel slavery and unconscionable suffering inflicted on Black people seeking freedom. The Haitian people have demonstrated incredible vision and resilience throughout their history. They are sacred, valuable, and inviolable. Most of all, the lives, rights, and safety of each and every Haitian migrant seeking refuge in the U.S. matters.
Dr. Amara Enyia is the Policy and Research Coordinator at the Movement for Black Lives and Managing Director of Diaspora Rising. She is also a strategist and public policy expert working on local and national policy as well as international affairs/foreign policy with expertise in Africa, Central Asia, and Latin America. She writes extensively on issues of education, workforce development, economic development, fiscal policy, equity in policy, and systems thinking. She holds a Masters degree in education, a law degree, and a PhD in Education Policy with a focus on Evaluation Methodology.