America’s long history of abusing Haitian migrants
Last week, looking at the heartbreaking images of Haitian migrants – crammed by the thousands under the Del Rio International Bridge in Texas, or crossing at shallow spots in the Rio Grande, or chased by border patrol officers on horseback, or landing in Haiti for the first time in years, I thought about some of my family’s migratory nightmares. I remembered my mother telling me how, while living in New York on an expired tourist visa, in the 1970s, she was arrested during an immigration raid on a garment factory. . She was pregnant at the time of one of my younger brothers. Spots and cramps, and being held in an overcrowded cell, she thought she had miscarried, until she was finally seen by a doctor a few days later. I remembered my eighty-one-year-old uncle Joseph who died in US detention in Miami in 2004 after fleeing the Bel Air neighborhood of Port-au-Prince following a bloody operation of United Nations forces. He was detained by US Immigration and Customs Enforcement after seeking asylum at Miami International Airport. His medication was taken from him and, after his health deteriorated, he was taken to the detention center of a local hospital, where he died chained to a bed. I also remembered the hundreds of men and women I saw at Toussaint Louverture Airport in Port-au-Prince over the past decade, heading out of the country to new destinations, so full of people. hopeful and determined that my parents had been to travel abroad, find work, send money to their families and eventually provide a better life for their children.
The mass deportations from Del Rio this week are not the first time the current administration has acted forcefully against Haitian migrants. During Joe Biden’s first weeks in office, citing a public health measure known as Title 42, which had already been used by the Trump administration during the height of the coronavirus pandemic, the administration expelled more over a thousand Haitians, including babies. (Last week, a federal judge ruled that migrant families could not be deported under Title 42, a decision the Biden administration is currently appealing.) Since the 7.0 magnitude earthquake in January 2010, which killed around two hundred thousand people and left 1.5 million homeless, thousands of Haitians live in Brazil and Chile. As anti-immigrant sentiment in these countries grew and opportunities dwindled, Haitians and other migrants, including Cubans, Venezuelans, and Nicaraguans, traveled across Central and South America to reach the US border. -Mexican and seek asylum. In March, however, the United States Embassy in Haiti tweeted a message from President Biden translated into Haitian Creole: “Mwen ka di sa byen klè: pa vini“-” I can say very clearly: do not come.
In May, after continued pressure from Haitian immigrant advocates, the Biden administration extended Temporary Protected Status, or TPS, by eighteen months for 150,000 Haitians who were already in the United States – something Biden had promised during his campaign in Miami’s Little Quartier d’Haiti, in October 2020. But the United States cracked down on those who tried to enter the country for the first time. Over the summer, Haiti faced a series of disasters, including the assassination of President Jovenel Moïse in July and a magnitude 7.2 earthquake in the country’s southern peninsula in August, which , according to Haiti’s Civil Protection Office, left more than 2200 people and destroyed homes, schools, churches and health facilities. Tropical Storm Grace hit the same area soon after. As a result, small groups of Haitian migrants fled by sea, and those who were not intercepted by the US Coast Guard arrived in South Florida.
On Thursday, it emerged that the Department of Homeland Security was advertising a new contract to operate an existing migrant detention center in Guantánamo Bay, with the requirement that some guards speak Haitian Creole. The White House said the administration would not transfer migrants from the border to this settlement, but migrant advocates were rightly alarmed, given the settlement’s history. In the early 1990s, before terrorism suspects were held there indefinitely, Guantánamo was used to store around forty thousand Haitian asylum seekers who fled Haiti by boat after the first democratically elected president, Jean-Bertrand. Aristide, was overthrown in a coup d ‘état led by the Haitian army, some of whom had been trained in the United States and were in the pay of the CIA. Ninaj Raoul, executive director of the Brooklyn-based immigrant advocacy group Haitian Women for Haitian Refugees, was working as an interpreter at Guantanamo at the time. What she saw there was “the most blatant form of systemic racism I have ever known,” Raoul told me this week, via email. “Haitians were held behind barbed wire and in four square foot cages, a prison within a prison. This included women and, in some cases, even children. Raoul sees many parallels between the treatment of Haitians then and today. This week, she received voice messages from migrants under the Del Rio Bridge and elsewhere, including from a woman who had traveled from Chile with her husband and baby and was running out of milk to feed the infant. The ongoing deportations are in the news due to the large number of migrants involved, she added. But, in many ways, “this situation at the border is not new at all. There will be no solution without directly addressing the root causes.
Over the past decade, Haiti has been disastrously ruled by the Haitian Party Tèt Kale (the Haitian Party of Bald Heads), also known as PHTK Its standard bearer, musician turned politician Michel Martelly, is came to power in a widely contested electoral cycle. during the Obama administration, and with the help of then Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, who traveled to Haiti and allegedly pressured outgoing Haitian President René Préval to push Martelly through second ballot. During the Trump years, Haitians staged months-long protests against the government of Moïse, who was Martelly’s successor, citing corruption and his highly unpopular plan to rewrite the constitution and hold elections while ruling by executive order. . Yet the United States, including the Biden administration, continued to support Moses, even though massacres were frequently carried out in poor opposition neighborhoods by heavily armed gangs linked to the Moses regime. One of the deadliest and most destabilizing factors of urban life in Haiti is the preponderance of firearms. Despite an American arms embargo in 1991, the country is “inundated” with American-made firearms and ammunition, such as the Miami Herald Jacqueline Charles wrote in February 2019 and alleged arms trafficking is spreading at the highest level of government. As Eugenio Weigend Vargas, director of gun violence prevention at the Center for American Progress, told Widlore Mérancourt of the Ayibopost news site this week: “Immigrants are fleeing the violence the United States inflicts on them.”
After Moïse’s assassination, the Biden administration could have met with civil society leaders, including the Commission to Find a Haitian Solution to the Crisis, which drafted an agreement that was recently signed by nearly nine hundred organizations. representative of political, legal and trade union representatives. , feminist, agricultural and diasporic groups, among others. Instead, the White House continued to support the PHTK, which is now headed by de facto Prime Minister Ariel Henry. Henry rushes to hold new elections, even as kidnappings increase and parts of the road connecting the north and south of the country remain impassable due to the presence of armed gangs. There is currently no electoral process in place in which the entire country can participate safely and fairly, and another low turnout competition, ushering in a new president whose legitimacy is in question, will only repeat the cycle of the last decade. Haiti, which has forced so many to flee in recent years, is in many ways unable to cope with their forced return.
The devastating images of the border showed the rest of the world only what some of us have known for a long time. On Thursday, the US special envoy to Haiti, Dan Foote, resigned his post because of the “inhuman and counterproductive” deportation of Haitians by the Biden administration. In his letter of resignation, he noted the “catastrophic” consequences of external interventions in Haiti. Asylum seekers should have the opportunity to make their case for a better life in America. As Foote pointed out, the Haitian people should finally have the chance to forge their own path.