Haitians and a history of U.S. mistreatment
9/23/2021, 6 p.m.
The inhumane treatment of thousands of Haitian migrants encamped and stuck at the U.S.-Mexico border on the Rio Grande near Del Rio, Texas, is just the latest example of the double standard employed by this country regarding Black immigrants.
In recent months, we — the United States — have welcomed thousands of white-looking refugees from war-torn Afghanistan. We have put Brown children from Central America in cages in Texas immigration centers after separating them from their parents. And now we are putting Black migrants from Haiti on planes and sending them back to a nation wracked by poverty, damaged by earthquakes and rocked by political turmoil and instability as highlighted by the assassination of its president during a coup attempt in July.
Where is the compassionate immigration policy and treatment President Biden claimed he would institute following the out and out cruelty exerted by the former Trump administration?
The photos and videos of U.S. Customs and Border Protection agents on horseback using their long reins and mounts to chase, intimidate, control and reportedly whip Haitians carrying their pos- sessions on foot through water and rocky terrain conjured images of America’s horrific past of using slave patrols and the Ku Klux Klan to terrorize African-Americans.
“This cruelty is utterly sickening ... and all too familiar to those who are aware of America’s ugly history,” national NAACP President and CEO Derrick Johnson said in a statement this week. “No person fleeing poverty and hunger should be treated in this egregious manner.”
Mr. Johnson called for the Biden administration to grant temporary protected status to those seeking refuge. And he called for the deplorable actions of the U.S. border patrol agents to be investigated and the agents reprimanded.
We wholeheartedly concur. There is no reason, justification or excuse for the mistreatment of the Haitians migrants, many of whom left Haiti after the devastating 2010 earthquake to find work in Brazil, Chile and Central America. But with opportunities drying up in those nations after the need for cheap labor expired and the pandemic set in, many of the Haitians headed to Mexico to gain entry into the United States after President Biden took office and pledged to undertake a more humanitarian approach to immigration.
According to published reports, many of the migrants have family in the United States. According to 2019 Census data, more than 1 million Haitians call the United States home, with large settlements in south Florida, New York, Boston, Philadelphia, Washington, Chicago and Detroit and growing communities in North Carolina, Georgia, Louisiana and Texas.
Recognizing the growing instability in Haiti, President Biden in May granted temporary protected status to about 150,000 Haitians already living in the United States. But it did nothing to help the thousands who fled Haiti in the wake of the assassination of Presi- dent Jovenel Moїse and the 7.2-magnitude earthquake that shook that nation in mid-August.
And now, we find it deplorable that the United States is expelling the Haitians at the Texas border by the planeload and returning them to their homeland on the grounds of public health under a U.S. policy known as Title 42.
The NAACP and 343 other civil rights and advocacy organizations have appealed to President Biden to halt the deportations. According to Human Rights Watch, documents the organization obtained show that the U.S. Department of Homeland Security warned that migrants and asylum seekers returned to Haiti may face harm, including “violent crime, kidnapping, political crisis and civil unrest.”
The organization also said that medical experts for the Department of Homeland Security filed a disclosure condemning the Title 42 policy in May, saying it “lacked a valid public health justification.”
Human Rights Watch called the expulsions of Haitians “discriminatory and abusive.”
“This violent treatment of Haitians at the border is just the latest example of racially discriminatory, abusive and illegal U.S. border policies that are returning people to harm and humanitarian disaster,” stated Alison Parker, U.S. managing director of Human Rights Watch.
While U.S. Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas announced after traveling to Del Rio this week that the agency is undertaking a disciplinary investigation into the treatment of the Haitian migrants there, we don’t believe that is enough.
We join with others in calling for President Biden to publicly condemn the actions of the border patrol agents and to go on record saying such behavior will be cause for termination.
We also call on the Biden administration to confront, address and overhaul the racially discriminatory immigration policies, including Title 42, and biased enforcement that historically have plagued our nation.
Right now, we take small solace in the monumental task of Vice President Kamala Harris, who earlier this year was directed by President Biden to oversee efforts to address the root causes of migration into the United States from Central America. While she has pledged this nation’s aid in creating jobs and stability to help people feel secure in their homelands and lessen the pressures leading to migration, we hope Haiti can be added to her list for assistance.
The United States owes a big debt to Haiti going back centuries, but instead, we have a history of mistreatment toward Haiti and Haitians.
Haitians came to our shores to help fight off the British in the 1770s during our war for independence. And even after Haitians won their independence from colonial power France in 1804, the United States government never recognized the Black nation until 1862, when we were in the throes of our own Civil War over slavery.
The United States has never given Haiti the respect or aid it deserves. We have treated the nation with hostility and domination, including an invasion in 1914 that precipitated a military occupation lasting until 1934.
The U.S. military occupied Haiti again in 1994, when that nation’s democratically elected president, Jean-Bertrand Aristide, returned from exile after fleeing a coup by the Haitian military. When he was re-elected in 2000, the U.S. military worked with the Haitian military to forcibly remove him from office and send him into exile once again — in South Africa.
In the 1990s, we also banned Haitian immigrants from entering the United States and put many Haitian refugees, including pregnant women and children, in a prison camp on the U.S. naval base at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, because they allegedly had the virus that causes AIDS.
We are mistreating Haitian migrants again in Del Rio at the border.
It is time the United States ends its racially charged and illegal policies and tactics against the poor and Black nation and its people. Our energies should be used to build, not to destroy.
We must demand change from our government when it comes to dealing with Haiti and its people.