Black Caucus meets with White House over treatment of Haitian migrants

Rep. Joyce Beatty (D-Ohio) speaks on the phone as the House conducts the first votes of the week on Monday, July 19, 2021.
Greg Nash

Members of the Congressional Black Caucus (CBC) met with senior White House officials on Wednesday and called for the suspension of border patrol agents photographed on horseback rounding up Haitian migrants near the southern border town of Del Rio, Texas. 

CBC Chairwoman Joyce Beatty (D-Ohio) told reporters after the meeting at the White House with senior adviser and former CBC member Cedric Richmond and domestic policy adviser and former ambassador Susan Rice that the group immediately highlighted the now-viral pictures that to many observers looked like they were from another era.  

“We were very concerned, as we looked at the process, we want those [agents] that were identified suspended; we want to halt that process,” Beatty said.

“The nation saw that,” Beatty added. “There is no one who has contacted me that did not feel that this was not horrific. It’s deplorable, it’s insulting, it makes me too emotional to even talk about that you would treat people like that.”

Beatty was joined at the White House by Reps. Sheila Jackson Lee (D-Texas), Barbara Lee (D-Calif.), Gregory Meeks (D-N.Y.), Troy Carter (D-La.), Hakeem Jeffries (D-N.Y.), Yvette Clark (D-N.Y.), Ritchie Torres (D-N.Y.) and Steven Horsford (D-Nev.).

Beatty also noted that caucus members Reps. Bennie Thompson (D-Miss.) and Gregory Meeks (D-N.Y.) — chairs of the House Homeland Security Committee and the House Foreign Affairs Committee, respectively — were sending a letter to the administration on the issue.

The letter asks the Department of Homeland Security and the State Department to supply the committees with a laundry list of documents regarding the situation by Oct. 1. 

Thousands of Haitian migrants at the border are being deported back to Haiti, a country that has suffered an earthquake and the assassination of its president in recent months. Both the deportations and the treatment of the Haitian migrants has outraged Democrats, many of whom have called for a suspension of deportation flights to Haiti.

The administration is also facing criticism from Democrats and activists for its continued use of Title 42, a Trump-era policy that allows border officials to deport migrants without giving them the chance to seek asylum.

In their letter, Thompson and Meeks make a direct appeal for deportations of the Haitian migrants to stop.

“We urge the Administration to halt repatriations to Haiti until the country recovers from these devastating crises,” the lawmakers wrote.

“We are troubled by the plan to repatriate thousands of people to Haiti, despite the instability, violence, and devastation that continue to plague the country,” Thompson and Meeks added.

Additionally, the letter notes that four months ago — prior to the earthquake and assassination — Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas announced an 18-month temporary protected status designation for Haiti, allowing eligible Haitian nationals residing in the U.S. as of May 21 to begin the process and stay in the country.

On Tuesday, Mayorkas condemned the actions of border agents, but confirmed that the deportations of Haitian migrants will continue.

“We are increasing the frequency and number of the repatriation flights each day,” Mayorkas said.

“We’re hoping that what we are doing now serves as a deterrent because it backs up the words that we have spoken since the very outset: that irregular migration is not the way to enter the United States. It will not work.”

The administration is also facing pressure from Republicans, who say the White House has lost control at the border. 

All of this comes as President Biden is struggling to see his legislative priorities passed through Congress, specifically his $3.5 trillion budget that would offer a substantial increase of funding to social services and his bipartisan infrastructure deal.

Rep. Brenda Lawrence (D-Mich.), the CBC’s second vice chair, acknowledged the administration’s current heavy workload, but stressed that the situation in Del Rio is “unacceptable.”

“What we want is a comprehensive plan of how you’re going to deal with this issue,” Lawrence told The Hill.

“Where is the compassionate part of human rights being implemented in your plan … the visual we’re seeing, I don’t see any human rights, compassion [or] values that we, as the United States are supposed to use.”

Updated at 3:23 p.m.

Tags Alejandro Mayorkas Barbara Lee Bennie Thompson Brenda Lawrence CBC Cedric Richmond Congressional Black Caucus Gregory Meeks Haiti Hakeem Jeffries Immigration Joe Biden Joyce Beatty Sheila Jackson Lee Steven Horsford Susan Rice Texas

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