On August 14, 2021 a magnitude 7.2 earthquake—causing 2,207 deaths, another 12,268 injuries, and the destruction of 129,929 homes—struck Haiti and was soon followed by Tropical Storm Grace which directly interfered with earthquake response efforts. These natural disasters came amid years of political instability, marked by the assasination of President Jovenel Moïse on July 7 of this year.These interlocking crises placed a spotlight on migration from Haiti which has increased over the past decade, especially in the aftermath of the 2010 earthquake that struck the country. However, many Haitians now presenting at United States borders have in actuality spent months traveling through countries such as Chile and Brazil.
In recent weeks, thousands of migrants gathered in an area near the Del Rio International bridge, a bridge on the Mexico-U.S. border. Reports indicate that many of the nearly 14,000 migrants in the camp at its peak were from Haiti, having made the dangerous trek to seek asylum in the U.S.
Over the weekend of September 18, a disturbing set of images began circulating from the camp. These shocking images showed U.S. border patrol agents on horseback, corralling migrants aggressively, evoking a grim reminder of the historical mistreatment of Black people in the US and demonstrating a total lack of respect for human dignity. These actions arrive alongside the Biden administration’s consistent use of Title 42 to forcibly deport many would be asylum seekers under the guise of public health. Title 42 closes the border to migrants and asylum seekers, citing the potential COVID-19 risk of migrants entering the country, while continuing to allow many other types of travelers to cross borders. The Title, in spite of criticisms from many leading U.S. public health experts, federal courts, and the United Nations Refugee Agency which has declared that no nation should discriminate at borders due to the pandemic, has been used by U.S. Homeland Security to conduct over 750,000 forced expulsions. As of August 22, 1,424 deportees had been flown from Texas to Haiti in the past week. Of that group, 170 are children and 41 of them did not have Haiti citizenship.
Mass General Center for Global Health faculty and staff work with asylum seekers in the U.S., communities in Haiti, and with migrants on the Mexico-U.S. border. We condemn the inhumane treatment of migrants seeking protection in the U.S. We believe in due process for those seeking asylum and recognize that Title 42 deportations are not supported by public health evidence and do not follow standard procedures for those wishing to seek asylum. We stand in solidarity with the Haitian community and with migrants seeking asylum.
Ways to act: