Civil and human rights leaders denounce the treatment of Haitian migrants at the southern border


Migrants, many from Haiti, are seen Tuesday at an encampment along the Del Rio International Bridge near the Rio Grande in Del Rio, Texas. (Associated press)

Civil and human rights groups on Wednesday criticized White House immigration policies for inflicting “cruelty on black, brown and indigenous immigrant communities,” according to a letter sent by the organizations to President Biden .

“We fear that the commitments made during the election campaign (…) will be shredded before our eyes,” said the letter, which was signed by the leaders of more than 30 civil and human rights groups, including Sherrilyn. Ifill, President and Director. legal advisor to the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund; Anthony Romero, executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union; and Franciscka Lucien, Executive Director of the Institute for Justice and Democracy in Haiti.

The letter arrived at the White House amid strong bipartisan criticism of the Biden administration’s response to an encampment of thousands of mostly Haitian migrants in Del Rio, Texas, just across the Mexican border. . Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas, who visited the region earlier this week, told Congress on Tuesday that conditions in Del Rio were a “human tragedy” to which officials rushed.

US authorities on Tuesday reduced the size of the encampment to less than 10,000 people, down from 15,000 last week, Mayorkas said. “We continue to move individuals from Del Rio to other treatment centers to facilitate their repatriation,” he said, as the government “increased the number of repatriation flights to Haiti and other countries. third country “.

In their letter, civil and human rights activists wrote that the repatriation flights confirmed “our fears that your administration, like its predecessors, is using harsh and illegal policies to try to deter people, especially black migrants, from leaving. seek refuge at the border. Your administration has promised to uphold the principles of racial equity, but is launching immigration policies steeped in anti-black racism. “

The letter did not address photos and videos that appeared earlier this week that appeared to show border patrol officers on horseback in Del Rio loading migrants as they crossed the Rio Grande. In some of the photos, it appeared officers were giving up or whipping the reins to migrants or in the air. Democrats have been particularly vocal in condemning the agents’ actions.

Vice President Kamala Harris noted On Tuesday the pictures were “horrible” and that “human beings should never be treated this way”.

“And I’m deeply troubled about it,” Harris said.

On Wednesday, Home Policy Advisor Susan Rice, Senior Advisor Cedric Richmond and other officials met with nine members of the Congressional Black Caucus, including Barbara Lee (D-Oakland), who tweeted that during the meeting she “had made it clear that those seeking asylum should not be overruled by those on horseback and that other legal rights should be protected.”

Biden faces criticism from lawmakers from both political parties for his handling of the situation in Del Rio and on the border more broadly. Authorities fear historically high levels of migrants, according to US statistics. In August, migrants were arrested 208,000 times at the southern border, up from 50,000 in the same month last year and 62,700 in August 2019.

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell said in a statement Wednesday that the administration’s policies had directly made the border a “nightmare.”

The influx of Haitians to the border is the result of a complex set of circumstances that can be attributed to a major earthquake in 2010 that severely damaged the Caribbean nation. In the months following the earthquake, Haitians fled their country, many settling in South America. Following the political instability of the past few months, Haitians have moved north, seeking entry into the United States.

Mayorkas told Congress the situation was the result of “a very rapid, truly unprecedented increase in individuals, mostly Haitian nationals, crossing a discrete portion of the border” at Del Rio.

This story originally appeared in the Los Angeles Times.


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