Amid surge of Haitian migrants, Biden admin uses Title 42 to remove asylum seekers

by | Sep 22, 2021 | Immigration/Border, Policy

Right now, under a Del Rio international bridge on the Texas-Mexico border more than 15,000 majority Haitian migrants are waiting in 104 degree heat to make their case for seeking asylum in the United States. 

Because of the lack of resources, many migrants have been walking back and forth through the knee deep Rio Grande River to purchase food, water, and supplies in Mexico. 

Since last week, migrants have been camping under the bridge waiting for their ticket number to be called and seeking temporary protected status. 

But with the influx of migrants in Del Rio, the Department of Homeland Security has instead started the process of expelling migrants either back to Haiti or other countries in accordance with the Center for Disease Control Title 42 policy. 

For context, Title 42 was a policy pushed by the Trump administration in 2020 to expel migrants from the states amidst the COVID-19 pandemic. 

According to DHS Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas, the agency is working with ICE and the U.S. Coast Guard to process and expel migrants as quickly as possible. 

“Approximately 3,500 over the last few days and 3,000 today — in order to ensure that migrants are swiftly taken into custody, processed, and removed from the United States consistent with our laws and policies,” Mayorkas said. “We in DHS are securing additional transportation to accelerate the pace and increase the capacity of removal flights to Haiti and other destinations in the Western Hemisphere.”

According to Mayorkas, 4,000 Haitians have already been removed from under the bridge.

In addition to the expulsion of migrants from Del Rio, DHS and CBP processing tactics are being criticized after footage went viral on Monday of CBP officers on horseback using lariats, also reported as whips, to intimidate migrants. 

In response to the video footage, U.S. Border Patrol Chief Raul Ortiz said horse units are a part of the agency’s security response.

“We don’t know who are the smugglers and who are the migrants so it’s important that those agents maintain a level of security for both themselves and for the migrant population as they were trafficking back and forth,” Ortiz said. 

Vice President Kamala Harris said she was deeply troubled with how migrants are being treated. 

“What I saw depicted those individuals on horseback treating human beings the way they were was horrible,” Harris said in a press conference. “We really have to do a lot more to recognize that as a member of the Western Hemisphere we have to support some very basic needs that the people of Haiti have to get back up.” 

In addition to the expulsion, the intimidation of migrants with larits, and the lack of resources, the DHS had a message to other migrants that may be thinking of making the journey to the U.S.

“We have reiterated that our borders are not open, and people should not make the dangerous journey,” DHS Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas said in a press conference. “Your journey will not succeed, and you will be endangering your life and your family’s lives.”

Nevertheless, the CBP Office of Professional Responsibility said they have launched an investigation into the horse-back agents and the use of whips. But organizations like the American Civil Liberties Union of Texas said an investigation isn’t enough. 

“The use of horse mounted agents, lariats, and abusive language to menace and seek to deter migrants on the U.S. side of the Rio Grande is not only a disturbing in its lack of humanity but demonstrates both a failure to follow existing policy and highlights the inadequacies of current use of force policy,” ACLU of Texas said in a statement. 

Moreover, the Refugee and Immigration Center for Education and Legal Services said the treatment of migrants at the border is dehumanizing. 

“These images are no different from when KKK members and slave patrollers would round up enslaved Black Americans during Reconstruction,” RAICES said in a statement. “Anti-Blackness and white supremacy has and continues to permeate all systems in the United States, especially immigration.” 

The Signal spoke with Houston Haitians United Secretary Rolanda Charles who called the situation in Del Rio “extremely disheartening.” 

“Now that everyone is free and it’s the 21st century and we’re still using lassos like you’re lassoing cattle … And you’re using that to gather human beings; it’s an extremely shocking thing to see,” Charles said. “Now we’re having to feel less than human and not even getting the basic human decency or rights like respect.” 

HHU and Charles have already processed over 200 migrants from the Del Rio border and provided them resources in the states. 

According to Charles, the federal government’s reasoning of expelling Haitians because of public health concerns doesn’t make sense when many Haitians are ready and willing to get the vaccine if that means staying in America.

“At the facility that we are in we have people ready and willing to give them vaccines so that’s not a good enough excuse,” Charles said. “The Haitian people are okay with taking the test right on the spot and they are okay with getting the vaccine right on the spot.” 

In terms of helping migrants at the border, Charles said people can help migrants by reaching out to their local officials and holding them accountable. 

The increase in Haitian migrants comes after the country was hit by a devastating earthquake in August which killed over 2,000 Haitians and the assissination of President Jovenel Moise in July. 

According to reports, many Haitian migrants have been making the journey to America since the first tragic earthquake that hit the country in 2010. Some migrants said they were staying in other countries like Chile and Mexico before making camp in Del Rio. Last week, a federal judge blocked Biden’s administration usage of Title 42 which allows the U.S. to expel migrants based on public health. Under the new ruling, families are protected under the law while single adults arriving at the border can still be expelled. The new ruling set to go into effect Sept. 30 will determine how the Biden administration will respond to more migrant surges in the future.

Photo: PAUL RATJE/AFP via Getty Images

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Kennedy is a recent graduate of the University of St.Thomas in Houston where she served as Editor-in-Chief of the Celt Independent. Kennedy brings her experience of writing about social justice issues to the Texas Signal where she serves as our Political Reporter. She does everything from covering crime beats, Texas politics, and community activism. Kennedy is a passionate reporter, avid reader, coffee enthusiast, and loves to travel.

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