Several black immigration organizations have filed a formal complaint with the Department of Homeland Security’s Office of Civil Rights and Civil Liberties, demanding that the Biden administration end its continued deportations of Haitian asylum seekers.
The lawsuit filed by four groups – Haitian Bridge Alliance, UndocuBlack Network, African Communities Together and Black Alliance for Just Immigration – calls for any potential witness to border patrol abuse to be allowed to remain in the United States while their asylum claims are made. are under investigation. The complaint was first reported by the Grio and signed off by dozens of advocacy groups.
MOre of 13,000 Haitians were camping along the river in the Texas border town of Del Rio last weekend when border patrol officers on horseback charged some of the people gathered there, verbally assaulting them and appearing to whip them . The photos of the violence shocked the public.
Haitian asylum seekers – who have long been subjected to anti-black discrimination and violence – have attempted to enter the United States via the Mexican border for years. The assassination of the Haitian president in July and a magnitude 7.2 earthquake in August only made matters worse.
In their complaint, the groups argued that by carrying out immediate deportations, DHS failed to comply with a recent immigration and customs enforcement directive that directed the ICE to “suspend civilian immigration enforcement measures against victims or witnesses participating in criminal investigations ”.
“When victims have access to humanitarian protection, regardless of their immigration status, and can feel safe to come forward,” the directive says, “it strengthens the capacity of (…) prosecute crimes. The complaint argues that these principles should also apply to victims of DHS offenses.
“What we witnessed in Del Rio is a disgusting demonstration of our values, as the deportations and expulsions were administered on the basis of a system of cruelty, sadism and oppression towards the extremely vulnerable,” said Guerline Jozef, executive director of Haitian Bridge Alliance. Release.
“President Biden and Vice President Harris have campaigned on the promise to end the disrespectful and humane Trumpian policies, especially on immigration and so far they have failed,” he said. she continued.
Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas has argued that while the footage of Del Rio is disturbing and prompted him to temporarily stop using horse patrols, he believes his department is doing the right thing. by carrying out mass expulsions of Haitians. The Biden administration has granted temporary protected status to Haitians already in the United States, but this does not extend to new arrivals.
On Sunday, Mayorkas defended the decision on “Meet The Press”.
“It is the exercise of a public health imperative,” he said. “We are in the midst of a pandemic and the Centers for Disease Control has Title 42 authority that we exercise to protect the migrants themselves, to protect local communities, our staff and the American public. The pandemic is not behind us. Title 42 is a public health policy, not an immigration policy.
Title 42 of the Public Health Service Act gives federal health officials the power to take extraordinary measures to limit the transmission of an infectious disease. Under former President Donald Trump, immigration officials began using this rationale to deport asylum seekers arriving at the border, immediately returning them to their countries of origin and denying them the opportunity to apply for it. asylum. The Biden administration continued the controversial policy.
So far, around 4,000 Haitians camped at Del Rio have been deported under Title 42, Mayorkas said.
Critics of the policy have called it a thinly veiled measure to curb immigration. Federal health officials said last year that Trump administration immigration officials quashed top CDC scientists who opposed invoking the rule for immigration purposes , claiming there was no evidence it would slow the spread of COVID-19.
The organizations’ complaint notes that migrants have been denied access to lawyers, interpreters, adequate medical care, fear-based testing, and proper nutrition and sanitation, all under intense heat. It also highlights the physical intimidation and violence against migrants by border patrol agents, and the misleading statements made by internal security agents to Haitians about where they were flown.
“We are failing to meet our obligation as a nation to be a place of refuge for people seeking a better life,” former Obama administration cabinet member Julián Castro told HuffPost, earlier this week. “And at the very least, asylum seekers, whether they come from Haiti or one of these Northern Triangle countries, should be allowed to apply for asylum, instead of being harshly expelled from the country. This was not the change we were hoping for in immigration policy.
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