Black leaders from across civil rights and immigration organizations came together Tuesday demanding action for Black asylum seekers. The group is holding President Joe Biden to an early pledge to prioritize racial equity across the entire administration.
The country looked on in horror after photos emerged from the border with what appeared to be Border Patrol whipping Haitian migrants while on horseback. Reminiscent of scenes from the antebellum south, the searing images drove home the inhumanity of the crisis as the border.
According to the group, the Biden racial equity pledge must extend to immigration policy and the actions of Homeland Security.
“Homeland Security is not exempt from this holistic review or this moral imperative,” Nana Gyamfi, executive director of the Black Alliance for Just Immigration, said. “It is frankly disturbing and deeply concerning that we are not seeing the work and the fundamental shifts required to comply with the president’s racial equity executive order.”
Biden released an executive order prioritizing racial equity across the entire administration on Jan. 20. The order begins by acknowledging equal opportunity as the bedrock of American democracy. “Our diversity is one of our country’s greatest strengths,” reads the statement. “Entrenched disparities in our laws and public policies, and in our public and private institutions, have often denied that equal opportunity to individuals and communities.”
Some of those disparities include the disproportionate treatment of Black immigrants at the hand of immigration officials and law enforcement. The group’s letter directly challenges the president on the actions of law enforcement agents at the border and the inhumanity in returning Haitian asylum seekers to a country in extreme crisis.
“This abhorrent behavior is a disgrace to the nation and the world,” Damon Hewitt, president and executive director of the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, said. “We cannot be silent while our brothers and sisters are treated in such a way as they flee multiple crises. We owe Haitian asylum seekers respect, not disdain, especially while they are at their most vulnerable.”
Calling the administration’s actions “disconcerting” demands an end to the deportations and immediate humanitarian parole.
The decision last week to begin forcing Haitians onto planes to “return them home,” the very place that they were fleeing from, is inhumane. After admitting that Haiti was indeed a place too dangerous for these immigrants to return to, as evidenced by the granting of Temporary Protective Status (TPS) in May, we would have expected a dramatically different approach to this crisis. In fact, since that time conditions in Haiti have deteriorated with the assassination of President Jovenel and the earthquake in August that killed more than 2,200 people. This crisis requires more from our nation.
The initial response from the Department of Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas has been to downplay the incident as business as usual, raising more significant issues concerning border patrol efforts. A government that prides itself on freedom and equity defending the violent actions of horseback patrols speaks volumes.
Judith Brown Dianis, executive director of the Advancement Project, also expressed disappointment in the administration’s reaction to the emergence of Haitian migrants at the border.
“The Biden Administration’s first response to the thousands of Haitian migrants was immediate deportation instead of providing an opportunity to seek asylum,” Brown Dianis said. “As a nation that values freedom and opportunity, we should be welcoming Black migrants rather than brutalizing them. We urge the administration to investigate the action of Border Patrol and treat the crisis as it should be, recognizing the humanity of our Haitian sisters and brothers and giving them the opportunity other migrants receive to seek asylum.”