2021 has been a whirlwind of global events and natural disasters, today we bring to your awareness the crisis currently taking place on the Rio Grande under the Del Rio International Bridge where over 14,000 Haitian migrants were found seeking asylum in the United States. Images of Haitian migrants encamped at the Texas/ Mexican border being abused by border patrol officers on horseback with what appears to be whips were heartbreaking. Let’s take a look at some of the recent events that lead up to these migrants seeking refuge in the United States.
On July 7th, 2021, President Jovenel Moïse was assassinated in his private residence in the capital city of Port-au-Prince by an alleged group of Columbian mercenaries. President Moïse was the first president to be assassinated on the island in over 100 years. Claude Joseph served as the interim prime minister until being replaced by Dr. Ariel Henry on July 20, 2021. The unprecedented assassination left the Haitian diaspora in shock, ache, and among many, anger, and the nation without a real leader.
Six weeks later a 7.2 earthquake struck the Tiburon Peninsula in Haiti which covers the southwest coastal towns of Aux Cayes and Jeremie, among others. On that fateful morning of August 14, 2021, over 2,000 lives were lost and 12,000 people were left injured. Today, an estimated 650,000 remain in need of assistance. The magnitude of this quake was worse than the 2010 earthquake. Haitian prime minister Dr. Ariel Henry declared a month-long state of emergency due to the high number of casualties and severe damage. Foreign charities, nongovernmental organizations, and other volunteer groups sent workers, supplies, and equipment to help with the search, recovery, and rescue.
As the Haitian community worked towards digesting these monumental events in a short span of time, last Friday stories began circulating about Haitian migrants being abused by U.S. Border Patrol agents while seeking asylum under a bridge in Texas. Many of these migrants were undocumented residents of Central America, facing limited economic opportunities as the pandemic continues hence prompting the search for asylum in America. The Biden Administration responded by sending 400 additional CBP agents and officers to the Del Rio, deporting the migrants back to Haiti, and using Title 42 as justification.
What is Title 42? When the COVID-19 pandemic escalated globally, the Department of Health and Human Services implemented and enforced Title 42 on March 20, 2020. It is part of U.S. health law, specifically Section 262 of U.S. Code Title 42 which prohibits entry into the United States when there is a serious danger of possible introduction of [a communicable] disease. As a result, U.S. authorities are using the Title 42 ordinance to immediately expel thousands of asylum seekers/ migrants that made the treacherous journey to the border during the pandemic without due process. In cases when Title 42 does not apply, the migrants would be placed in expedited removal proceedings. While Title 42 might seem like an innocent regulation with no ill-intention towards immigrants themselves, its powers during the pandemic were used by the Trump administration to close the border and stop the flow of immigrants. When the top CDC doctor who oversees this regulation refused to comply, former Vice President Pence intervened by using his authority over the COVID-19 response to put Title 42 into action.
On Monday, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi condemned the alleged mistreatment of Haitian migrants at the border saying “All migrants must be treated in accordance with the law and with basic decency. Any acts of aggression or violence cannot be tolerated and must be investigated. Congress will continue to closely monitor the developments.” Human rights watch and other groups have urged the Biden Administration to end the Title 42 policy. The Haitian migrants who are already in Mexican detention centers and have not requested asylum who will be among the first flown to Haiti once Mexico resumes flights.
Haitian migrants who arrive in our country seeking safety and security are fleeing a country that’s been ravaged by natural disasters and violence following the assassination of the country’s leader this past summer. Everyone deserves to right to be treated with humanity and compassion. For anyone interested in helping, below is a list of local organizations in Texas:
- Houston Haitians United: Helping Haitian migrants in Houston | How to volunteer, donate | khou.com
- Black Freedom Factory: Del Rio Border Crisis – Black Freedom Factory
- El Paso Baptist Association: El Paso Baptist Association | Border/Immigration
We at The Law Offices of Marjory Cajoux stand with the Haitian community in denouncing these violent acts and inhumane treatment. Our thoughts and prayers are with our brothers and sisters at the border, their families, friends, and the entire Haitian diaspora.