On September 21, millions of Americans were taken aback after seeing images of U.S. Border Patrol agents using long "reins" to chase down asylum-seeking Haitian migrants near the southern border. White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki called the images "horrific" and Vice President Kamala Harris said that she was "deeply troubled" by what was taking place. While this story may be new to some, it is not new to you and the Black Information Network family.
Just two months into Biden's presidency, the Black Information Network reported that nearly 15,000 Black migrants seeking asylum in the United States were forced to wait in Mexico as wheels of the American immigration system slowly turned. While in Mexico, a number of Black, non-Spanish-speaking migrants faced discrimination and police brutality.
“Black migrants get noticed immediately, so they get stopped by the police a lot more,” Paulina Olvera Cáñez of Espacio Migrante, a nonprofit organization in Tijuana, told BuzzFeed News.
Two months later, activists openly criticized immigration policies implemented under the Biden administration that targeted Black immigrants seeking asylum. Ultimately, the White House and Department of Homeland Security extended temporary protections for thousands of Haitians seeking refugees in the U.S.
“Haiti is currently experiencing serious security concerns, social unrest, an increase in human rights abuses, crippling poverty, and lack of basic resources, which are exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic,” Department of Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas said.
However, there is one caveat with the efforts put forth by the White House and Department of Homeland Security. As immigration lawyer Samah Sisay explained to NBC News, protected status can be revoked if an asylum seeker has three or more misdemeanors, including any offense involving marijuana. Given that the American policing system has been called out for unjustly stopping and arresting unarmed Black folks, policies that rely on a fair justice system often raise eyebrows. Ultimately, the Black Alliance found that 76% of Black migrants are deported because of contact with the police.
“Black immigrants are constantly profiled. Things that could be a ticket then turn into misdemeanors. Black immigrants also have the highest visa denial rates. Black immigrants are more likely, when they are detained, to be put in solitary confinement. We bear the brunt of all the consequences that happen, all the xenophobia in this country," Yoliswa Cele of UndocuBlack explained to NBC News.
The immigration issues that faced the Biden administration have only worsened over the last eight months. The conflict reached a tipping point last week when upwards of 10,000 Black migrants gathered near a bridge in Del Rio, Texas. U.S. Border Patrol agents traveled out to that area and the images referenced above were captured, but how did we get here?
How Did We Get Here?
How did we get here? That is a loaded question. To completely understand how thousands of Haitian migrants ended up at America's doorstep, we'd have to look back at that time Haiti was excommunicated from the world community until it paid France $150 million francs for its independence. Also, there would have to be a discussion about how President Bill Clinton's trade policies destroyed Haiti's rice farming economy. However, those topics would require an entire college course to discuss. Instead, let's get a grasp on what has happened in Haiti within the last three months.
On July 7, then Haitian President Jovenel Moïse was assassinated in his home. In the aftermath, three officers were injured and nearly 40 people have been arrested. Adding on, Port-au-Prince prosecutor Bed-Ford Claude has requested that Haiti's Prime Minister Ariel Henry be charged in connection to the murder.
Six weeks after Moïse was killed, a 7.2 earthquake hit Haiti and more than 1,200 people were killed. The damage done by the 2021 earthquake added on to the damage already done by an earthquake in 2010 that killed nearly 200,000 people. Shortly after the earthquake, a tropical depression poured 10 inches of rain on Haiti as the nation attempted to recover.
In the wake of natural disasters, political unrest and economic uncertainty, thousands of people have left Haiti in search of a safe place to live. Some Haitian migrants have ended up in the Dominican Republican and several countries across Central America. However, an overwhelming number of migrants seeking asylum have arrived at the southern border near Texas. Policies implemented over the last few presidencies have thrown much of the immigration process into a tailspin. In the end, thousands of people are left at the border with few ways to get into America and no safe place to stay in Haiti.