Deportation of Haitians from Del Rio brings storm of protest

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U.S. border guards using horses and whip-like ropes to control Haitian refugees at Del Rio camp brought complaints from around the world. White House spokesperson called the scene “horrific.” (AP photo/Felix Marquez)

Thousands of Haitian migrants chased from their homeland by devastating earthquakes, political assassinations, and vicious gang warfare in the streets will likely have to go through it all again after being forcibly returned home by order of the President of the United States.

Of the reported 14,000 refugees taking temporary shelter under the bridge at Del Rio, an estimated 70 percent were Haitians. Nearly all the focus, however, was on the large group of Haitians there, with barely a mention of the other ethnic migrants. Haitians frequently encounter more than their fair share of obstacles and barriers at U.S. borders, the sources for this story say. 

The deportation began Sunday with three planeloads carrying 320 passengers from the overcrowded Del Rio border encampment. The administration’s plan was to increase the number of flights to seven a day by Wednesday. The Del Rio border entry was closed Sunday as 2,500 migrants were moved from there to other processing centers.

A torrent of complaints on both social and news media from around the world denounced the televised images of mounted U.S. Border Patrol agents, some with ropes in hand, using their horses to corral the bewildered Black pedestrians near the Del Rio encampments. The image of the old and haggard Texas cowboy rounding up human strays, that would soon be driven away to a distant market, was a throwback to slavery times, a human rights attorney said.

“We are disturbed by the images that we have seen and by the fact that we have seen all these migrants and refugees and asylum-seekers in transport to Port-Au-Prince,” United Nations Human Rights spokesperson Marta Hurtado said Monday.

White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said she had found the Border patrol action “horrific,” assuring the CBS news anchor interviewing her that the President felt the same.

“I don’t know anyone who could watch that video and not have that emotion,” Psaki said. “That’s not who the Biden-Harris administration is.”

The Biden administration, nevertheless, continued the forced flights begun Sunday.

Making his presence known at the Del Rio bridge where the 14,000 refugees from a variety of countries had been sheltering, Texas Gov. Gregg Abbott announced Tuesday that he was taking steps to stem the flow of immigrants into Texas. The governor had already signed a bill on September 17 that allocated $2 billion for Texas border security.



Waikinya Clanton, State Director of the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) office in Mississippi, said the Haitian refugees in Del Rio have the right, under both U.S. and international law, to seek asylum.

“What we see happening on the United States border is an atrocity,” she said. “These Haitian migrants are coming to America, as our Constitution allows them, to seek asylum. And we are turning a blind eye to what each one has faced over the last several months, from the assassination of their president to a life shattering earthquake.”

“More than 50 Democratic lawmakers joined the Haitian support groups from across the nation in the call to end the current U.S. plan to ship thousands of Haitian refugees from Del Rio back to Haiti.”

“U.S. policy towards Haiti has always been atrocious,” says Gerald Lenoir, founder-director of the Black Alliance for Just Immigration and a board member of the National Committee for Refugee and Immigrant Rights. “And they continue to punish Haiti because it was the first Black republic. It was a former slave colony that staged a successful revolution. And Haiti inspired slave revolts all over the Americas.”

Attorney Nicole Phillips with the Haitian Bridge Alliance is frustrated that there is no easy way to stop the scheme to deport Haitians from the Del Rio site.

“We’re doing everything we can to try and stop this deportation,” Phillips said. “But it appears that the Biden administration is dead set on expelling these people, for show. We’ve held a press briefing this week to get the support of Congress. There needs to be more pressure on Congress, and on the Biden administration.”

While many Haitians have found Mexico a friendly and accommodating country and have established “Little Haiti” communities in several towns south of the border, the Mexican government said it would deport Haitians from Ciudad Acuna, the town just across the border from Del Rio. Several buses carrying Haitians were reportedly seen leaving Ciudad Acuna for Monterrey, Mexico last Sunday evening. 


Haitian-born David Josue resents the poor treatment that Haitians in distress are subjected to in the United States. Josue, the chairman of the Georgia Green Party, was a top staff member for former Congresswoman Cynthia McKinley.

“What people have observed is that it’s only the people of African descent who get kicked out,” Josue said. “Just the other day, we saw where chartered jets were going into Afghanistan to bring Afghanis to the United States.  Now here you’ve got the other case, for Haitians, where you can’t even apply to have your case heard. But this is nothing new. Back in the day, Haitians and Cubans used to come to the U.S. in the same boat. The Cubans were welcomed, but the Haitians were sent to Guantanamo.

“We have always had a good relationship with the United States,” Josue said. “Here in Savannah, for example, there is a monument dedicated to the Haitian soldiers who came here and fought in the War for Independence of the United States. Henri Christophe, who later became king of Haiti, was one of those soldiers.”

He then deals with the question of whether white nations should hate Haiti and Haitians. 

“Haiti was the first nation to throw off the yoke of slavery,” Josue said. “Not only was it the model and symbol of liberation for countries throughout Latin America, but it played an active role in providing supplies and soldiers, especially for Venezuela, to advance independence. All the countries that have flags with the colors yellow, blue and red, were liberated by Haiti.”

Among the nations that received significant support from Haiti in their fight for independence are Brazil, Guyana, Venezuela, Ecuador, Colombia, Panama, northern Peru, Costa Rica, Nicaragua, and Bolivia.

“In 1804, Jean Jacques Dessalines declared freedom for Blacks throughout all the universe.” Josue says. “Haiti was a founding member of the United Nations and was there to welcome all the new nations of Africa, Asia, and Latin America when they were admitted,” he added.

“We know that we come from good stock,” he said. “We are made of good stuff.  We have survived. Those of us who are here today say we want to live free, or we will fight.”


Ben Smilowitz, founder-director of the Disaster Accountability Project, a charitable organization dedicated to getting assistance directly to Haitian disaster victims, says Biden is continuing a policy contrived by the Trump administration to circumvent the law granting asylum and access at the U.S. border.

“The Biden administration is still enforcing a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention order known as Title 42, initiated last year by former President Donald Trump,” Smilowitz said.

Under Title 42, asylum seekers and other refugees can be turned back at the U.S. borders because of public health concerns during the COVID pandemic.

Lenoir said the Title 42 ruse should be abandoned and the asylum law should be the rule.

“Anyone who shows up on that border seeking asylum, according to the law, has to be granted a hearing,” he said. “But they’re not following that law. They’re just rounding up people and deporting them without due process.”

A report from the Associated Press Wednesday morning cited a U.S. official who said “large numbers of Haitians were being processed under immigration laws and not being placed on expulsion flights to Haiti that started Sunday.”

Lenoir’s proposed solution, perhaps.

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Deportation of Haitians from Del Rio brings storm of protest

By Earnest McBride
September 24, 2021