Haitian community leaders denounce deportation of compatriots at Texas border

Haitian-Americans, including elected officials and community organizations, attend the rally at Brooklyn Borough Hall.
Office of Assemblymember Rodneyse Bichotte Hermelyn

Haitian community leaders in Brooklyn have strongly condemned the mass deportation of Haitian migrants at the Texas border.

The leaders, including legislators — Assembly member Rodneyse Bichotte Hermelyn, chair of the Brooklyn Democratic Party, and Council Members Dr. Matthieu Eugene and Farah N. Louis — rallied on Tuesday outside Brooklyn Borough Hall denouncing the deportations.

The Biden administration on Saturday began deporting thousands of Haitians who have migrated at the southern border in the past week after illegally entering the US, overwhelming the South Texas town of Del Rio.

“Heart wrenching scenes from the Texas border have perturbed citizens of the world,” said Bichotte Hermelyn, the daughter of Haitian immigrants, who represents the 42nd Assembly District in Brooklyn. “America is a country built upon immigrant’s dreams, grit and hard work. It is with urgency that I beg the Biden administration to find the compassion to allow the Haitian families and children in Del Rio to stay.

“I decry the actions of border patrol agents, whose use of force against migrants reflects a narrative not seen since colonial times,” added Bichotte Hermelyn, who, in July, had written to US President Joe Biden, urging him to halt deportations of Haitians following the assassination of Haiti’s former president, Jovenel Moïse.

“I proudly join my Haitian American elected colleagues in demanding our nation meet migrants with an open door, not the racist immigration policies of the past administration,” she continued.

Dr. Eugene, the first Haitian to be elected to New York City Council, said: “We are all concerned about the treatment of our Haitian brothers and sisters who have crossed the border into Texas.

“Their ordeal represents a humanitarian crisis, and we stand together in solidarity with them,” added the representative for the 40th Council District in Brooklyn. “The United States has a moral obligation to protect these immigrants, and we demand that they receive due process upon their arrival and are not deported back to Haiti.

“Our country is still suffering in the aftermath of the August 14th earthquake, an event which compounded the previous crises that had already caused widespread devastation and chaos,” Dr. Eugene continued. “Haiti cannot handle an influx of refugees that will worsen an incredibly dire situation and should not be forced into an untenable circumstance that would endanger the lives of so many. We are asking for compassion towards Haitian refugees to keep them in a safe and secure living environment.”

Louis, another daughter of Haitian immigrants, who represents the adjacent 45th Council District in Brooklyn, said she was “absolutely disgusted with the Biden Administration and the inhumane treatment of our Haitian sisters and brothers in Del Rio, Texas.

“The US is supposed to lead by example, extending compassion and treating human beings with dignity and respect,” she said. “Instead, we have seen an expeditious expulsion, which contradicts the administration’s recognition of the ongoing political and health crises in Haiti within the last two months that have caused thousands to seek refuge elsewhere.

“The suppression of Black people, partially from the Caribbean or West Indies, despite our contributions through public service, local economy, and cultural footprint throughout this nation’s history, speaks volumes,” Louis continued. “We are here to make it clear that we will persist until these deportations cease and Haitian migrants are given the same opportunity to seek asylum like so many others who arrived here before them.”

The Rev. Dr. Samuel Nicolas, the Haitian-born Senior Pastor and President of the Brooklyn-based Haitian Evangelical Clergy Association, said his group was “saddened and disappointed with the treatment that Haitian migrants are being subjected to in DelRio, Texas.

“This treatment is cruel and barbaric, and no asylum seeker should be treated with such indignity,” he said. “We pray that our local, state and federal authorities will act swiftly to correct this horrific situation.”

Jackson Rockingster, president of HABNET Chamber of Commerce and chair of Little Haiti Bk (Brooklyn), urged the Biden administration to “afford the Haitian migrants justice, equity and due process, because they are on US soil.

“If this is too difficult for you to do, I simply ask that you adhere to the golden rule and treat people the way you would like to be treated,” he said.

In Washington, US Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer condemned the deportations on the floor of the US Senate, while Garrett Armwood, his deputy state director, appeared at the Brooklyn rally to reaffirm his remarks.

Migrants seeking asylum in the U.S. are seen at a makeshift border camp along the International Bridge in Del Rio, Texas, U.S., Sept. 22, 2021. REUTERS/Marco Bello

On Wednesday, Caribbean American Congresswoman Yvette D. Clarke, the daughter of Jamaican immigrants called for due process for Haitian migrants at the southern border and reiterated her plea for “a humanitarian moratorium” on the Haitian repatriation flights “due to the emergent and compounding situations in Haiti.”

Clarke, who represents the predominantly Caribbean 9th Congressional District in Brooklyn, also condemned the behavior of US Customs and Border Protection (CBP) agents at the Texas border, who, on horseback, sought to deter the migration of Haitian.

The congresswoman, however, said she supports US Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas’ comprehensive investigation into the “egregious series of events in Del Rio, Texas.”

“I am calling for a humanitarian moratorium on these targeted deportations,” Clarke told Caribbean Life. “Now, more than ever, we must reimagine the immigration system in a humane, just and fair manner.

“I am the daughter of immigrant parents from Jamaica, and this is personal to me,” she stressed. “I have dedicated my career to building an immigration system that lets people live without fear and gives immigrants — like my parents — who sought a better life and to contribute to our nation, a fair opportunity to thrive.”

The DHS said in a statement on Saturday that it was “immediately implementing a new, comprehensive strategy to address the increase in migrant encounters in the Del Rio sector of South Texas.”

The DHS said that, within the next 24-48 hours, the US Customs and Border Protection (CBO) agency will have surged 400 agents and officers to the Del Rio sector to improve control of the area.

The White House has directed appropriate US agencies to work with the Haitian and other regional governments to provide assistance and support to returnees, the DHS said.

It said the majority of Haitian migrants continue to be expelled under the Atlanta, Georgia-based Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Title 42 authority.

“Those who cannot be expelled under Title 42, and do not have a legal basis to remain, will be placed in expedited removal proceedings,” said the DHS, stating that it is conducting regular expulsion and removal flights to Haiti, Mexico, Ecuador and Northern Triangle countries.

“The Biden administration has reiterated that our borders are not open, and people should not make the dangerous journey,” the statement said. “Individuals and families are subject to border restrictions, including expulsion.”

But horrific photos of CBP agents using their horse’s reins as whips while stopping Haitian migrants from crossing the Rio Grande River, near the Del Rio-Acuna Port of Entry in Del Rio, Texas, sparked widespread outrage.

Murad Awawdeh — executive director of the New York Immigration Coalition (NYIC), an umbrella policy and advocacy organization for more than 200 immigration groups in New York State — said the images come amid news of the Biden administration’s “use of a Trump-era policy change to ignore immigration law and deport Haitian asylum seekers en masse.”

He noted that, in the coming weeks, the administration is planning to deport roughly 14,000 Haitian families “when Haiti is experiencing destabilizing political violence and still recovering from a massive earthquake that caused widespread destruction.

“The Border Patrol’s inhumane and shameful actions against Black migrants seeking safety should enrage all Americans,” Awawdeh said. “But their actions are not happening in a vacuum. Unfortunately, the horrifying scenes at the border are symptomatic of the heartless asylum policies of the Biden administration, which is doing little to differentiate its border policies from that of its predecessor.

“In fact, this White House appears to be on track to build upon the previous occupants’ repellant legacy by executing the largest mass expulsion of asylum seekers in recent history,” he added. “Deporting people seeking refuge back to a country facing multiple humanitarian and environmental crises amounts to a death sentence.

“We stand with Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and his demand for President Biden to immediately halt the deportation flights of Haitian refugees and act swiftly to reign in the longstanding abusive actions of his Border Patrol,” Awawdeh continued.

The New York-based Immigrant Defense Project (IDP) — founded 20 years ago to combat an emerging human rights crisis: the targeting of immigrants for mass imprisonment and deportation — on Wednesday also condemned the “horrific abuse of Haitian migrants at the border” and demanded that the Biden administration immediately stop the deportations.

“We denounce in the strongest possible terms the reprehensible and cruel treatment of Haitian refugees by the Biden administration,” said the IDP in a statement. “We call on the administration to immediately stop all deportations and grant humanitarian parole and the opportunity to claim asylum.

“The horrifying images of aggressive Border Patrol agents, including the sickening image of horse-mounted border patrol agents abusing Haitian migrants and the apparent use of whips, evoke the violent, white supremacist roots of policing in the US,” it added. “The racism and cruelty embedded in the US immigration system can neither be ignored nor tolerated.

The IDP said while top Biden administration officials are calling these images “obviously horrific,” “horrible” and claiming that they defy “all of the values we seek to instill”, “they orchestrate the mass deportation of the very refugees they are abusing.

“Actions speak louder than words, and this administration’s actions are roaring,” the IDP said.

More from Around NYC