Images of U.S. border agents on horseback trying to “contain” Black people will always shock the masses. It shocked Black people. Now, Haitian Americans want the government to probe into the treatment of Haitians in custody.
On Monday, Lawyers for Civil Rights (LCR) filed a complaint with the Department of Homeland Security’s (DHS) Office for Civil Rights and Civil Liberties, on behalf of the group Haitian Americans United (HAU) and the several dozen people who managed to flee across the border and survived treatment from custom agents. They want the DHS to look further into the treatment of Haitains at the border who were detained in overcrowded holding places, denied access to medical care and treatment, deprived of food, water, sanitation, hygiene products and blankets, and Haitian creole translators and interpreters.
The complaint also called for the Office for Civil Rights and Civil Liberties to conduct and issue a report detailing the results of the investigation of the mistreatment of Haitians at the border. It also states that the report should be made public.
Iván Espinoza-Madrigal, executive director of Lawyers for Civil Rights, stated that even though border crossers are being treated badly, Haitian border crossers are being treated worse due to anti-Blackness.
“Visceral anti-Black and anti-Haitian sentiments explain the gross miscarriage of justice experienced by Black Haitian families at the border at the hands of federal officials,” said Espinoza-Madrigal. “As our country experiences a racial justice reckoning, we must recognize that Black immigrants matter too.”
Border Patrol agents are continuing the practices installed by former President Donald Trump, who ordered a zero-tolerance policy on immigration by stopping families from crossing the border. Some of those detained were separated from their kids.
New York City Assembly member Rodneyse Bichotte Hermelyn to the AmNews that her constituents were hit hard by the latest developments and hope that there’s a light at the end of the tunnel for Haitians wishing to come to America.
“The lawsuit sheds more light on miscarriages of justice at the border, which we witnessed in the media and heard about through loved ones,” said Assembly member Bichotte Hermelyn, whose district includes the cultural center known as Little Haiti, Brooklyn. “This suit brings a glimmer of hope to people in my district. Everyone there knows someone who has been affected. We support the demands in the suit, and we will continue with fervor to decry the deportations of migrants without cause. We have to end the systematic disenfranchisement of immigrants who look like us.”
In late September, images surfaced of border agents, who were white or white-looking, on horseback with ropes for horses (known as a lariats), threatening to whip Haitians attempting to cross the border.
During the uproar in response to seeing these images, the DHS issued a statement calling the behavior by agents at the border “troubling.”
“DHS does not tolerate the abuse of migrants in our custody and we take these allegations very seriously,” read their statement. “Customs and Border Patrol’s Office of Professional Responsibility is investigating the matter and has alerted the DHS Office of Inspector General.”
Rev. Dieufort Fleurissaint of Haitian Americans United, hopes the DHS follows through.
“We cannot turn a blind eye to the plight of Haitians at the border,” stated Fleurissaint. “People are fleeing Haiti seeking our protection. They do not deserve our punishment.”