President Joe Biden acknowledged in his victory speech that “the African American community stood up again for me,” adding, “You’ve always had my back, and I’ll have yours.” So how come, during Biden’s watch, mounted European American Border Patrol agents used their horses and reins as whips to force Haitian refugees from American soil, evoking the round-up of escaping slaves?
As president, Biden must be held accountable but the herding of the Haitians under the Del Rio, Texas, border bridge was just the latest manifestation of an immigration system designed to favor European Americans. That was evident when Congress passed the Cuban Adjustment Act in 1966 accepting Cubans escaping Communism as political refugees. Haitians fleeing the horrors of the Duvalier dictatorship are deemed economic refugees, turned back at sea and deported if they make it to land.
Congress created Temporary Protective Status (TPS) in the 1990 Immigration Act, allowing refugees from a few countries to remain in the U.S. temporarily to avoid crises such as armed conflict and disasters. But TPS covered only 46,000 Haitians of a total of 320,000 refugees.
Haitians have been granted asylum “at the lowest rate of any nationality with consistently high numbers of asylum seekers,” an Associated Press data analysis showed. Also, “between 2018 and 2021, only 4.62 percent of Haitian asylum seekers were granted asylum by the U.S. — the lowest rate among 84 groups for whom data is available.”
An analysis of 2019 Department of Homeland Security data on African and Caribbean immigrants found that “66 percent of Black immigrants deported from the U.S were removed based on criminal grounds, as opposed to 43 percent of all immigrants,” the AP said. Those “crimes” included moral turpitude, petty theft and turnstile jumping. “We have people getting deported because of train fare,” said Nana Gyamﬁ, executive director of the Black Alliance for Just Immigration.
Nicole Phillips of the Haitian Bridge Alliance traces this bias to the Haitian revolution, when the U.S. feared that its own slaves would revolt. The U.S. helped the French and did not recognize Haiti’s independence until July 12, 1862, even though more than 500 Haitians came and fought for American independence. The U.S. invaded and occupied Haiti from 1915 to 1934 and backed the dictator Francois Duvalier, whose regime, the AP said, was responsibility for the deaths of 30,000 of his people and sparked an exodus.
President Donald Trump became the modern face of this racism. Several sources said he described Haiti and a few other nations as “sh-holes” or “shhouses” during a White House meeting and said Haitians should be excluded from any immigration deal, The Washington Post reported. "Why do we need more Haitians?” Trump said. “Take them out." Trump also rescinded TPS granted to some 60,000 Haitians after the devastating 2010 earthquake and ordered them to leave by July 2019.
Still, Fabiola Cineas, in a Vox report, noted that “every presidential administration since the 1970s has treated Haitians differently than other migrant groups, rejecting asylum claims, holding them longer in detention, and making it harder for them to settle down in safety.”
Vice President Kamala Harris deemed the Border Patrol agents’ horseback law enforcement “horrible,” adding, “Human beings should never be treated that way and I’m deeply troubled about it.”
The NAACP and several civil rights organizations stated in a letter to Biden, “The actions of these Border Patrol ofﬁcers are disgraceful and show an indifference to the humanity of Black migrants.”
Daniel Foote, appointed Special Envoy to Haiti just in July, publicly resigned, telling Secretary of State Antony Blinken, “I will not be associated with the United States’ inhumane, counterproductive decision to deport thousands of Haitian refugees and illegal immigrants to Haiti, a country where American ofﬁcials are conﬁned to secure compounds because of the danger posed by armed gangs to daily life.”
Homeland Secretary Security Alejandro Mayorkas, which condemning the action of his Border guards, has insisted that the swift deportation of 4,000 of the Haitians was a public health matter under an order put in place by Trump due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
After days of silence, Biden ﬁnally declared. “To see people treated like they did — horses nearly running them over and people being strapped. It’s outrageous,” he said. “It’s dangerous, it’s wrong. Of course I take responsibility, I’m president. … I promise you, those people will pay.”
The president’s credibility is on the line because, regardless of his sweeping agenda, African Americans would want quick action on the border matter, even as they await resolution of the impasse on other issues critical to them, especially reform of voting laws and policing.
As far as the overall immigration situation is concerned, the driving force behind the obviously corrupt system has always been to ensure that the United States remains a majority European American nation and will remain so until reformed. Fear of so-called “replacement” motivates tens of millions, currently led by Trump, to oppose any reform, including legal status for the 11 million already here, as Biden has proposed. They push their “replacement theory” but denounce “critical race theory” and they are no doubt gleeful over the action in Del Rio.
But, “replacement” was far from their minds of Haitians such as Evens Delva and his wife and two daughters, who were among the thousands unceremoniously deported. “We were rounded up like cattle and shackled like criminals,” said Delva, who spent the six-hour flight with his hands and legs tied, the Guardian reported. “They treated us like animals,” his wife Maria added.
And, for deportee Belone Mpembele, it was a nightmare twice over. He is an Angolan who found himself coming off a plane in Haiti, a country he had never seen. “I told them I am not Haitian,” he said, “but they didn’t listen.”
No, they really do not.