Menacing images of the U.S. Border Patrol agents on horseback, blocking the paths of Haitian migrants, went viral on social media. Nearly 15,000 migrants, mostly made up of Haitians, made the dangerous journey from Latin America to the U.S.-Mexico border, hoping to seek asylum in the U.S. But groups say, Haitians were singled out, and targets of a mass expulsion back to Haiti. This dark moment has exposed President Joe Biden’s false promises of immigration reform and advocates are demanding change and accountability.
Deportations and division
The migrant camp in the small border town of Del Rio, Texas, is now empty. Highly-criticized expulsion flights began on Sept. 19. As of Sept. 24, roughly 2,000 Haitians were sent back to Haiti, and The Associated Press reported none remained, a stark difference from just days prior. Many migrants were also released into the U.S., according to the news agency.
U.S. officials expelled Haitian migrants through several flights per day, becoming the largest-scale expulsion the country has seen in decades. The United Nations Children’s Fund expressed concern with women and children being sent back to Haiti without proper protection, its executive director stating, “they find themselves even more vulnerable to violence, poverty and displacement—factors that drove them to migrate in the first place.”
President Biden’s special envoy to Haiti, Daniel Foote, resigned over the handling of the migrants. Mr. Foote said he would not be associated with the “inhumane, counterproductive decision to deport thousands of Haitian refugees and illegal immigrants to Haiti.”
“Our policy approach to Haiti remains deeply flawed, and my policy recommendations have been ignored and dismissed, when not edited to project a narrative different from my own,” his statement Sept. 24 further read.
In speech over the Sept. 26 weekend, former President Donald Trump applauded the Border Patrol, saying they were doing “one hell of a job.” “They’re going after the riders of the horses rather than the people that came in illegally … isn’t that incredible?” he said during a rally in Perry, Ga.
The outcry that followed the alarming images of Border Patrol agents mounted on horses sparked a policy change from the Biden administration. White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki announced the suspension of horse patrols at the U.S.-Mexico border. Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas said the Department of Homeland Security has opened an investigation into agents’ use of horses. NPR reported those involved have been placed on administrative duties. But advocates say, this is not enough.
Promises made, but not kept
It took several days for the president to fully address the treatment of Haitian migrants at the border, although he had the opportunity to do so during his United Nations address Sept. 21. Speaking Sept. 24, he called it “horrible.”
“There will be consequences,” President Biden told reporters. “It’s an embarrassment, but it’s beyond an embarrassment—it’s dangerous, it’s wrong, it sends the wrong message around the world and sends the wrong message at home. It’s simply not who we are.”
Prominent Democrats, as well as Republicans have put the president under intense fire for his handling of the border crisis. He has faced public criticism from Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y), as well as Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) and Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.) They joined a chorus of civil rights and grassroots activists, who called for an end to deportations. Tamika Mallory, a prominent young activist, blasted President Biden on Instagram. According to Black Enterprise, Ms. Mallory said while live on the social media app, “So there’s no way to get around the fact that under this administration, they are responsible.”
“This is much bigger than just one group of Border Patrol agents,” she also said. “His boss needs to be fired, and their bosses, not the man with the whip.”
She also posted to her feed, “Our Haitian family being whipped is NO DIFFERENT from George Floyd being choked of his air supply and murdered. … Those men on horses have the same mindset of police officers who kill Black people every day. And America is responsible.”
“They need to be prosecuted,” said Marleine Bastien, founder and executive director of the Family Action Network in Miami, Fla. The organization was part of a rally outside an immigration center in Miami. “They physically abused our refugees who came here.” She is fighting to have her organization do an assessment on refugees who may have been hurt or victimized by border patrol.
On Black News Tonight, journalist Marc Lamont Hill questioned Rep. Omar, asking if the Biden administration has broken its promise for immigration reform.
“Certainly,” she said. “This is worse than a broken promise. This is truly reneging and doing the opposite of what you said you would do.”
Furthermore, many were outraged that during his speech to the United Nations in New York, President Biden hardly commented on the crisis at the border, and the mistreatment of Haitian migrants.
While migrants are owed due process when coming to the border, and a chance at asylum, Title 42, a Trump-era health law denies certain immigrants asylum into the country.
“Under the Trump administration, which was rooted in the demographic bomb that they see going off in the Black and Brown community, which will render Whites in America a minority, they bent all of the rules to ensure that the migrants were turned around and not allowed in the country,” said Abdul Haleem Muhammad, the student regional representative of the Honorable Minister Louis Farrakhan based in Houston, Texas. “The Biden administration’s hands are tied because Congress has not done a comprehensive immigration bill since the time of Ronald Reagan.”
The Trump administration argued that migrants coming across the southern border did not qualify as refugees fleeing persecution and were not protected by U.S. asylum law. Although a U.S. district court judge handed down a ruling that barred the federal government from expelling migrants under Title 42, the Biden administration appealed the ruling, going against the president’s promise for immigration reform.
On top of that, Ms. Bastien says laws against Haitian migrants have always been racist.
“When you look at the number of people coming to the border, Haitians make up only one percent,” she said. “So why are they singled out for this treatment? We believe that racism is at the root of it.”
“There’s always been a double standard. Whether it is a Democratic or Republican administration, there’s always been a double standard,” she continued. She said Haitian-Americans are asking for the Biden administration to keep its promise to respect basic human rights. “We are asking for equal treatment.”
Many organizations stood up to blast President Biden, including the Black Alliance for Peace.
“Seeking asylum by individuals who may be facing prosecution, imprisonment and even death because of political affiliation or membership in racial, national, sexual or religious groups is a recognized requirement under international law,” Ajamu Baraka, national organizer for the Black Alliance for Peace, said. “That the Biden administration has ordered federal authorities to mass deport thousands of Haitians, which will probably have the effect of driving many of them who will resist deportation back into Mexico and Central and South America, is both unprecedented in its scope and fundamentally racist.”
The Haiti Support Project condemned the treatment of Haitians at the border, demanded an end to deportations, and a granting of Temporary Protective Status.
The Immigrant Defense Project released a statement, saying in part, “Top Biden administration officials are calling these images ‘obviously horrific,’ ‘horrible’ and claiming it ‘defies all of the values we seek to instill’ even as they orchestrate the mass deportation of the very refugees they are abusing. Actions speak louder than words, and this administration’s actions are roaring.”
The chaos the U.S. created
Haiti is currently recovering from the assassination of President Jovenel Moise and a catastrophic earthquake that killed more than 2,000 people. However, Haitians have been migrating from Haiti since the January 2010 earthquake that killed hundreds of thousands. The country’s unstable political landscape has been in place for decades, and advocates say it’s a direct result of meddling done by the United States and the United Nations.
“What’s happening at the border is a result of 30 years of a failed U.S. foreign policy with autocrats, dictators and corrupt politicians [in Haiti],” Ms. Bastien said. “So unless we address the root causes of migration, we will continue to see this crisis at the border.”
Janvieve Williams of BAP member organization AfroResistance pointed out, “Racist U.S. policies in Haiti, supported by the Core Group, the UN, and other international organizations, have created the situation in Haiti—and at the border.”
Black Alliance for Peace added, “If successive U.S. administrations had not undermined Haitian democracy and national self-determination, there would be no humanitarian crisis in Haiti or on the U.S. border.”
“The Biden administration upended democracy in Haiti by supporting Jovenel Moïse despite the end of his term,” the group continued. “All of these imperialist interventions have ensured that thousands would have to seek safety and refuge outside of Haiti. The U.S. policy response? Imprisonment and deportation. The United States has created an endless loop of dispossession, depravity and despair.”
Min. Haleem Muhammad, who joined a protest in Houston called to support justice for Haitians, said all of this is part of keeping Haiti destabilized.
“The country itself is still very minerally rich and there’s vast riches on the island of Haiti,” he observed. “The moneyed interests from around the world want to continuously destabilize Haiti, so that they can steal the wealth from underneath the feet of the Haitian people.”
Kofi Taharka, chairman of the National Black United Front (NBUF), said this is an important point to understand.
“We have to understand the history of Haiti, the history of the first, the only successful revolution and Black Republic in the Western Hemisphere,” said Mr. Taharka, who is based in Houston and helped organize the protest condemning U.S. actions.
“One of the challenges as we understand it within [Haiti] itself has been an elite class of people who have partnered with these imperialists, with these global White supremacists, to help destabilize the country,” he continued. “Could you imagine if they hadn’t had all this destabilization? The people wouldn’t be running here.”
Patrick Muhammad, the Miami-based 7th Region representative of Minister Farrakhan, who is also Haitian, said the biggest need is for unity. “We’re at a critical point right now, but we have to bring the solution, and we can’t dilute it, we can’t sugarcoat it, we cannot compromise the truth that is to be spoken. That’s why the Honorable Minister Louis Farrakhan is the boldest Black man that we know for humanity,” he said.
Min. Haleem Muhammad said accountability for President Biden is needed. Political accountability at the ballot box is needed but a greater divine accountability and divine chastisement is happening as the United States spirals downward. America “will be held accountable by the further unraveling of this great nation as the Honorable Minister Louis Farrakhan pointed out in his 2020 Saviours’ Day address,” he said.