More than 15,000 Haitians’ dreams of seeking asylum quickly turned into a nightmare after they illegally entered a small Texas town where they set up a tent city, only to be met with police barricades and threats of quick deportations.
Their dream of coming to America for a better life has become a nightmare, and their treatment by the Biden administration has “broken the hearts of Haitian Americans,” said attorney Daphnee Pierre-Camilien, president of the Haitian American Lawyer’s Association of Chicago.
While other immigrant groups are waiting to be processed in Texas, with an influx of 15,000 Haitians over the past three weeks, the Biden administration had already set up a plan that includes having Texas police use their vehicles to block the bridges and rivers used as entry points by the Haitians to enter the U.S. If that strategy fails to stop the Haitians, Texas border patrols are riding on horseback to track them down.
The Biden administration’s plan is to also fly the migrants back to Haiti, a country lacking in jobs, housing, social services resources, health care, and an unstable government.
The startling and offensive rapid response to the mass Haitian arrivals in DelRio, Texas, triggered quick and negative responses from Haitian American leaders including those from Pierre-Camilien.
In an interview with the Chicago Crusader late Monday night, September 20, she said, “The way they are treating the Haitians is sad, demoralizing and humiliating. The whole situation is pretty crazy. I don’t understand it. America’s immigration has had a lot of flaws, broken for years, but it needs to be changed,” she said.
Saying she doesn’t know the criteria for the deportation of Haitians, Pierre-Camilien said one rumor has it that the U.S. is allegedly deporting Haitians under expedited removal.
“We don’t know why they are deporting people so quickly and not allowing them to be processed.”
When asked what Haitian leaders are doing in response to the treatment of immigrants, Pierre-Camilien said, “We have Haitian organizations meeting with the Biden administration, asking them to stop the deportation, and for those who are leaving to be allowed to have asylum, to be processed and not to be deported immediately without due process.”
Asked if testing the Haitians for COVID-19 is a ruse to deport them, Pierre-Camilien said, “I don’t know but if they don’t have COVID-19, why wouldn’t they process them, and if they test positive, why not quarantine them?” Either way, she said the treatment of Haitians “just doesn’t make sense.”
When asked if she knew of any other ethnic group that has been treated in such a manner, Pierre-Camilian admitted that she did not.
“How does that make people feel? This is 2021. It’s absolutely awful. It’s a horrible feeling. What am I supposed to think about this? It’s really bad. We don’t know why they are deporting people so quickly and not allowing them to be processed.”
While Pierre-Camilien called the U.S. treatment of Haitian migrants “horrible and humiliating,” U.S. Department of Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas defended the administration’s deportation plan. In a statement released to the media, he said, “If you come to the United States illegally, you will be returned. Your journey will not succeed, and you will be endangering your life and your family’s life.”
According to Pierre-Camilien, several Haitian leaders are in communication with the Biden administration and have asked that the deportations cease. She said the Haitians don’t deserve this kind of treatment from the U.S.
Saying this is a nation of immigrants, Reverend Jesse Jackson in his September 21 Chicago Sun-Times column said Haitians are a proud people with a historical background, who don’t deserve this kind of treatment from the U.S.
“In one of the largest, fastest, most abrupt mass expulsions of refugees in modern U.S. history, the United States has begun flying some 12,000 Haitians camped in a Texas border town back to Haiti. Invoking executive authority asserted by Donald Trump, the Biden Administration is enforcing the Donald Trump immigration policy when it comes to Haitians.
“The first 320 migrants flown to Port-au-Prince, the Haitian capital, arrived dazed and distressed. Most were returned to a country they left years ago, migrating to Brazil or to Chile to find work, and then risking the dangerous trip to the U.S. border in the hope of improving their lives. On arrival in Haiti, they were given $100, tested for COVID-19, and left on their own.
“They arrive in a country ravaged by natural disaster and political chaos. The former president was assassinated. Only last month, the island was struck by a devastating earthquake that killed more than 2,200 people and destroyed more than 137,500 homes and some 900 schools.
“According to Haiti’s Civil Protection Agency, fewer than half of the 83,000 families affected have received the food rations they need.”
Jackson said Jean Negot Bonheur Delva, the head of Haiti’s national migration office, admitted that the Haitian state is unable to provide security or food for the deportees and pleaded for a “humanitarian moratorium.”
“What is the measure of our humanity? The Biden administration inherited an immigration policy shredded by Donald Trump who fanned fears of immigrants as part of his race-bait politics.”
Jackson said Trump “illegally banned immigrants from Moslem countries. He scorned what he called ‘s… hole’ countries,” saying he only wanted immigrants from affluent white countries like Norway. He slandered Haitian immigrants as all having AIDS. And, of course, he made building the Wall a metaphor for America closing in on itself.”
“Haiti is the poorest nation in the hemisphere; a country battered by political upheaval and natural disaster. Yet it is a proud nation and a proud people,” wrote Jackson. “In 1804, Haiti became the second republic in the Western Hemisphere (after the U.S.), when Haitian slaves fought and defeated their French slave owners, throwing off their colonial power.
“Haiti became the first modern state to abolish slavery and the first state in the world to be formed from a successful revolt of the poor.”
Referring to Haitian trader Jean Baptiste Point DuSable, and his arrival in the U.S. in the 1780s, Jackson said he was a man who is regarded as the founder of Chicago. However, Jackson said the U.S. relations with Haiti “were always scarred by racism. Fearful of the example set by Haiti’s slave revolt, the U.S. provided aid to attempt to put down the rebellion.”
However, Jackson said when the revolution succeeded, “slave interests in the U.S. blocked recognition of the new state until 1862 when the southern states seceded.
“In 1914, the Wilson administration sent U.S. Marines into Haiti, beginning an occupation that lasted 20 years. The U.S. took control of the assets of the Haitian National Bank, rewrote Haitian laws to allow foreigners to purchase land, and restructured the Haitian economy to serve U.S. interests.
“Haitian rebels who fought against the invasion were subjected to brutal repression. The horror led Smedley Butler, a general in the U.S. Marine Corps, to regret that ‘I spent most of my time being a high-class muscle man for Big Business, for Wall Street and for the Bankers. I helped make Haiti and Cuba a decent place for the National City Bank boys to collect revenues in’.”
Jackson called for the measurement of all human beings “by one-yard stick” and the same set of immigration rules.
And that is why the Haitian organizations and lawyers are meeting with the Biden administration. According to Pierre- Camilien, Alix Desulme, the president of the National Haitian American Elected Officials Network, and attorneys are currently at the border along with other Haitian leaders providing services to the stranded Haitian migrants.
She said what they need most is money and that the following organizations are accepting donations to help the Haitian migrants at the border.
These organizations are collecting donations and sending funds directly to those on the ground who are working to get them released. They are also providing food and shelter for the Haitians.
Attorney Pierre-Camilien asks that money be sent to the following Haitian organizations that are on the ground providing assistance to the migrants.
Haitian Congress to Fortify Haiti (Evanston, IL), or visit their website at https://www.haitiancongress.org/ or call 312. 841.7216.
Haitian Bridge Alliance, or visit their website at http://haitianbridge.org/index.html, or call (949) 295. 1253.
The National Haitian American Elected Officials Network (NHAEON) or visit their website at https://nhaeon.org/, or call 407-505-4310.
Thanks to the generosity of funding provided by The Field Foundation of Illinois, Inc. in producing this article.