Crime Scene at the U.S.-Mexico Border

Against the Current, No. 215, November/December 2021

Malik Miah

The Biden administration deported thousands of Haitians back to one of the hemisphere’s poorest countries, and after it was devastated by an earthquake last August. Logan Abassi/flickr.com

UNITED STATES PRESIDENT Joe Biden continues to show his government’s true face in the mass deportation of Haitian migrants.

In mid-September, nearly 15,000 desperate Haitian migrants, camped under a bridge on the Mexico-Texas border, were rounded up by U.S. Border Patrol agents on horseback, some using their reins as whips.

Thousands were dragged onto buses and planes and deported without the most basic due process under U.S. law for asylum seekers.

Haitian migrants reaching the U.S. border simply want a chance to live and work. They arrived as word spread that the Biden administration would extend special Temporary Protected Status to Haitians currently inside the United States following the recent earthquake. There are already 100,000 Haitians with this status inside the country.

Stay Out!

They were tragically mistaken. The U.S. policy towards new migrants and asylum seekers is simply “stay out.”

The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) reported that it flew 2000 migrants back to Haiti in one week. Many more have been deported since. Most did not know where they were going, until they landed in the capital city Port Au Prince, many years after they left their homeland for South America.

Haiti suffered a magnitude 7.2 earthquake on August 14. A month earlier, Haitian president Jovenel Moise was assassinated. While Haiti’s new government is unstable and seen as illegitimate, the Biden administration has given it support.

Hiding behind a “health mandate” used by former president Donald Trump, DHS has the power to exclude all migrants and asylum seekers. A federal court ruled that the imposition of this mandate violates U.S. law. The Biden government appealed that ruling, and continues to apply the exclusions arbitrarily.

Donald Trump blamed the country’s woes on so-called “illegals” as well as legal immigrants, particularly Brown and Black people. Biden refers to migrants crossing the border as “non-citizens” — and would have us believe this reflects a more humane response. The cruelty at the Texas border exposes how meaningless a word change can be.

Nerlin Clerge, a Haitian migrant who was at the camp with his wife and their two young sons, told Reuters: “The government of the United States has no conscience.” He is now considering applying for the right to stay in Mexico.

The brutality and speed of the deportations have exceeded the Trump and even Barack Obama administrations.

Outrage Grows

The outrageous footage of agents on horseback brought to mind old photos of white slaveowners going after runaway slaves. While some commentators dispute the use of whips, a vicious hit by horse reins can be painful and potentially deadly.

Cat Brooks, an Oakland-based activist, playwright and co-founder of the Anti-Police- Terror Project, wrote an opinion piece in the San Francisco Chronicle (September 23, 2021) expressing the anger and disbelief of the scenes under the bridge:

“Over 12,000 Haitians trekked thousands of miles, across countries and continents, through horrific conditions, including starvation, sickness, rape, and sodomy to get to the U.S. for sanctuary.

“The wealthiest and most resourced country on the planet told them to go home.

“Not just told them — screamed it at them — laced with vile, race-based obscenities, manifesting in arguably the largest and fastest mass deportation since the last time we expelled Haitians.

“The last thing America wants is more Black people.

“The images are grotesque. Black folks being herded like cattle. Like dogs. Whipped with horse reins. Charged by cops on horses. Huddled under a bridge. Sweltering in 104-degree heat.

“Humans seeking asylum and the American dream.

“What a nightmare.”

Systemic racism is the truth of Biden’s immigration policy: “Don’t come here. You are not welcome.”

Pressure is mounting from immigrants’ rights groups demanding that Haitians be treated like the new refugees from Afghanistan. Afghan refugees must be interviewed and vetted. They must also be quarantinedthen vaccinated, and relocated to communities around the country.

Army veterans who served in Afghanistan are organizing for the Afghans they worked with to be evacuated and settled in the United States, along with their families. Few Haitians and other asylum seekers and refugees are given that same pathway. Historically Black migrants, refugees and people seeking asylum have been treated worse than their non-Black counterparts.

Speaking Out

With Haiti in deep political and economic trouble, the United States and United Nations have provided little aid. Most of these Haitians left after the massive earlier 2010 earthquake, in which a quarter of a million people died.

Those now deported to Haiti have few opportunities. Many hold papers from other Latin American countries and are planning to leave. Some lived and worked in Brazil, Chile and other countries suffering the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic, climate change and deepening economic problems.

The immigrant rights movement is pressuring the Biden administration to follow the law and stop the deportations and police brutality at the border.

African Americans are the most outspoken. Black Wall Street Times editor Nehemiah Frank explained that this opinion is so strong because “Black Americans share a common bond with all Black people in the African diaspora that is composed of North and South America and the West Indies.”

It is more than identity and solidarity. It‘s a recognition that the type of police brutality against Black people is common — as the Black Lives Matter movement showed last year. What’s happened to Haitians at the Texas border, unfortunately, is not unusual.

November-December 2021, ATC 215

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