National Security

Black immigrant groups file FOIA requests over treatment of Haitians

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A coalition of advocates for Black migrants on Friday filed freedom of information requests regarding the treatment of migrants from Haiti and other countries who converged under a bridge in Del Rio, Texas, last month.

The requests were filed through the federal Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) and the Texas Public Information Act (by Haitian Bridge Alliance, UndocuBlack Network and African Communities Together.

The groups are seeking details on how federal and state agencies managed the encampment in Del Rio, including questions on how horses and vehicles were used to deter or threaten migrants, and whether any government agencies used water management powers to impede river crossings.

“Although the rapid news cycle means coverage has died down, we continue to be outraged by the anti-Black atrocities happening to Haitian and other Black migrants at the border,” said Breanne Palmer, interim policy and advocacy director of the UndocuBlack Network.

Although the requests could take months to be processed, they’re part of a pressure campaign on the Biden administration, which expelled thousands of Haitians who had sought entry into the U.S.

“To ask for transparency around the horrific treatment of migrants at the border, in particular towards our Haitian sisters and brothers, is to ask for the bare minimum. DHS and the State of Texas owe migrants and the American public much more than that,” said Diana Konaté, policy director at African Communities Together, referring to the Department of Homeland Security and the State Department.

Since Sept. 19, Immigration and Customs Enforcement has sent 61 planes with more than 6,000 people to Haiti.

“We are saddened by the ongoing events occurring under the Biden administration. On the campaign trail, President Biden went to Little Haiti in Miami, Florida and assured the Haitian community that he will be a friend and an advocate,” said Guerline Jozef, co-founder and executive director of the Haitian Bridge Alliance.

“This is not how friends should treat another seeking refuge and safety. While on the ground last week in Del Rio, it was clear from speaking with the very few that were paroled that severe human rights violations took place,” added Jozef.

While DHS has pledged to investigate and reprimand the Border Patrol agents who were seen on horseback chasing and whipping Haitian migrants, advocates argue that the entire operation to quickly clear out the Del Rio encampment was a symptom of inherent anti-Blackness in the U.S. immigration system.

“These information requests will help us determine exactly what DHS did to the thousands of Black migrants who gathered in Del Rio seeking protection and assistance in September 2021. This is just the next step in our efforts to end the war on Black immigrants,” said Palmer.

And advocates argue that anti-Blackness extends far beyond the U.S.-Mexico border.

Many of the Haitians at the border had already received refugee status in Latin American countries like Brazil or Chile, but had been driven out of those countries for economic and political reasons, including violent anti-Black attacks.

Haitian advocates have called on the United States to declare such refugees as stateless persons, since many of them have been away from Haiti for years, and many of their children have never been to the Caribbean nation.

At the same time, those advocates want the children of Haitians who arrived early enough to qualify for Temporary Protected Status in the United States to be treated as Haitian nationals even if they were born elsewhere, in order to keep their families united.

But so far DHS has continued its policy of quickly expelling newly arrived Haitians using Title 42, a Trump-era border management policy where foreign nationals can be summarily repatriated under the guise of sanitary protections due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Updated at 6:04 p.m.

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