Megachurch Pastor Jamal Bryant, the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees and the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People were among several powerful voices condemning the Biden administration’s handling of Haitian migrants seeking asylum in the U.S.
More than 15,000 Haitian migrants illegally crossed the Rio Grande from Ciudad Acuña, Mexico, into Del Rio, Texas, in the last three weeks, creating an immigration crisis at the border. Recent images of U.S. Border Patrol agents attempting to keep migrants from entering the country prompted Bryant on Tuesday to call on President Joe Biden to “address this affront against humanity.”
“I’m beyond outraged at #america treatment of #haiti refugees. @joebiden must address this affront against humanity. I’m calling on @congressionalblackcaucus to go inspect this camp immediately! The faith community must lift its voice!” Bryant wrote in a Facebook post published Tuesday. His post was accompanied by a video showing Haitian migrants gathered under the International Bridge in Del Rio as they sought entry into the U.S.
The head of the National Border Patrol Council, Brandon Judd, said he and Border Patrol agents also believe the migrants living under the bridge are being treated inhumanely by the Biden administration.
“They [Border Patrol agents] have been abandoned by the administration. I mean, I get that all the time. My agents are constantly reaching out to me asking, ‘Why isn’t this administration standing up and doing something to secure the border?’ ‘Why is this administration allowing cartels to have free rein of the border?’ ‘Why is this administration [doing nothing] when they said that they were going to have humane immigration practices? I don’t know,” Judd told The Epoch Times.
“You tell me, does this look like it’s humane right here?” he added. “This looks like a warzone refugee camp. That’s what this looks like. And if anybody says that this is humane, I would love for them to come and explain to me how this, right here, is humane."
As the number of migrants has surged past 15,000, the Biden administration has begun working to repatriate some single adult men and women who aren't pregnant and deter future migration. “We have reiterated that our borders are not open, and people should not make the dangerous journey,” Marsha Espinosa, assistant secretary for public affairs for the Department of Homeland Security, said in a statement to Reuters.
An official with the U.S. Department of Homeland Security told Reuters that 4,000 migrants have been relocated from the camp to detention centers. Meanwhile, 523 have been deported back to Haiti on four flights. The deportation process is set to continue.
Before they made the trek to the U.S., a majority of the Haitians in the encampment were living in South American countries, such as Chile and Brazil, where they settled for economic opportunities after the 2010 earthquake.
The expulsion of the migrants comes one month after the U.S. Department of State issued a do not travel advisory to Haiti “due to kidnapping, crime, civil unrest, and COVID-19” and two months after the assassination of the country’s late President Jovenel Moïse.
In a statement Tuesday, the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees, Filippo Grandi, expressed shock at the treatment of the Haitian migrants and urged the U.S. government to lift Title 42 restrictions that went into effect in March 2020 when the coronavirus pandemic broke out. Title 42 is a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention order aimed at slowing the spread of COVID-19 that allows the government to deny entry to individuals who enter the country without authorization.
While Biden has continued the Trump-era order, his administration applied exceptions for unaccompanied children and families that Mexico refuses to allow back into the country. "Of the more than 86,000 migrant families encountered in August, only 19% were removed under Title 42 — in part due to Mexico’s refusal to take back families with small children," Fox News reported.
“I was shocked by images of the deplorable conditions beneath the concrete highway overpass in Del Rio, Texas, where more than 14,000 Haitians had gathered after arduous journeys from a number of countries in the Americas,” Grandi said. “The summary, mass expulsions of individuals currently under way under the Title 42 authority, without screening for protection needs, is inconsistent with international norms and may constitute refoulement."
“I reiterate UNHCR’s call for the U.S. government immediately and fully to lift its Title 42 restrictions in effect since March of 2020 which continue to deny most people arriving at the southwest U.S. land border any opportunity to request asylum," he added.
NAACP President and CEO Derrick Johnson called the U.S. government’s response to the Haitian migrants “utterly sickening” and “inhumane.”
“No person fleeing poverty and hunger should be treated in this egregious manner. For far too long, the Haitian community has endured mistreatment at the hands of our nation. The administration has got to grant temporary protected status (TPS) to those seeking refuge,” he said in a statement. “The actions of the U.S. Border Patrol are deplorable and should be investigated and reprimanded. Our country claims to be better than this — we must show it.”
In response to accusations that Border Patrol agents used force against Haitian migrants, Judd said the horse patrol agents are there to prevent illegal entry into the U.S. The reins seen in images are there to control the horses and to keep people away from inadvertently being kicked, he added.
“Agents have to keep the migrants away from the horses for their own protection. And so they will use the reins, to twirl the reins, so that they will stay away from the horses. But they do not use those reins to lash out, to try to strike people. Those agents did not use those reins in any way, shape, or form to try to strike anybody," Judd told The Epoch Times.
Vice President Kamala Harris, who's also the administration's border czar, agreed with Johnson, however, saying that the images of Haitian migrants at the border being blocked by border agents on horseback were “horrible.”
“What I saw depicted about those individuals on horseback, treating human beings the way they were, is horrible. And I fully support what is happening right now, which is a thorough investigation into exactly what is going on there,” Harris told reporters Tuesday. “Human beings should never be treated that way and I am deeply troubled about it.”