By now, we’ve all seen the harrowing images of thousands of Haitian migrants gathered in a Texas town along the southern border with Mexico in a collective attempt to seek refuge and asylum in the United States.
Mainstream media has saturated its coverage with photos of Haitian migrants carrying their precious few belongings above their heads while making their way from Ciudad Acuña in Mexico to the shores of Del Rio, Texas.
But one set of images from the undeniable humanitarian crisis that has not been flashed across screens enough is that of the rabid Border Patrol agents on horseback tracking down Haitians in graphic photos that evoke haunting images of slave patrols.
Of course, there is no direct correlation between Haitian migrants and American slavery. However, it’s far from a coincidence that border patrol and slave patrols — both featuring white men on horseback ordering Black people around on a foreign land– share the common bond of American law enforcement, a system that has traditionally and consistently undervalued Black lives for centuries in a trend that has shown no signs of slowing.
There’s also the issue that Border Patrol was accosting Haitian in Texas, a state with its own sordid history of slavery.
The photos from Texas show angry-looking Border Patrol agents, complete with whips in their hands, literally lashing out at Haitian migrants who were wading across the Rio Grande River to shore in Texas, where thousands of others had been assembling under Del Rio International Bridge in a makeshift camp.
Photo captions provided by Getty Images claimed the Border Patrol agents were rounding up the Haitian migrants in advance of the U.S. government’s planned mass expulsion to return them to Haiti, a nation that is in the throes of multiple crises following the assassination of Haitian President Jovenel Moïse and last month’s magnitude 7.2 earthquake that killed more than 2,100 people, injured more than 10,000 people and left tens of thousands of people without homes.
Authorities began the mass expulsions on Sunday and, according to the Washington Post, at least one group of Haitian migrants removed from Del Rio were not told they were returning to Haiti in a reported instance of duplicity used against desperate people seeking better lives for themselves and their families.
The people who were taken from Texas and landed in Port-Au-Prince expressed a similar sentiment to human rights advocates and Haitian leaders alike who have said it is not a good idea to return the migrants to Haiti.
“How could they bring us back here?” Johnson Bordes asked in an interview with the Post moments after he stepped off the plane that landed. “This is an injustice. I don’t even know where we are going to sleep tonight.”
But the U.S. has made its policy toward Haitians, in particular, well known.
Following Haitian President Moïse‘s assassination in July, Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas told Haitians they shouldn’t head to the U.S.
Mayorkas stated that Haitians trying to travel to the U.S. “will die” and reportedly discouraged any “migration by sea.” He later added: “Allow me to be clear, if you take to the sea, you will not come to the United States.”
The U.S. has already extended protections for the Haitian nationals living in the continental 50 states under Temporary Protected Status (TPS). That status was renewed in May for another 18 months for up to 55,000 Haitians. Haitians living in the U.S. under TPS were previously facing deportations until Mayorkas renewed their protections.
Reacting to the Haitians in Del Rio, Mayorkas said last week, “We will address it accordingly.”
Now we know what he meant.