Expelled From Texas, Returned Haitians Lament Lost American Dream

On September 19th 2021, more than three hundred Haitians, who migrated to the U.S. with hopes for a better future, were expelled from Texas and sent back home by U.S. authorities. Since then, CNN has reported that around 4,600 Haitians have been removed from Texas as of September 29th. The Department of Homeland Security has been sending migrants on repatriation flights from Del Rio, Texas, back to Haiti. On September 19th, there were around 15,000 migrants camped around the border crossing bridge between Mexico and Del Rio, coming to the U.S. in search of a better life free of economic turmoil. 

According to the American Immigration Council, under the CDC’s Title 42 authority, which is a public health emergency law, U.S. authorities are allowed to expel migrants to prevent a further spread of Covid-19. The authority states that the Department of Homeland Security is to determine if any exemption should be granted on the basis of “significant law enforcement, officer and public safety, humanitarian, and public health interests.” This can include major medical emergencies. On September 24th, there was a Press Briefing where Secretary of Homeland Security Alejandro Mayorkas detailed the processes that took place at the border. It was stated that 12,400 immigrants who need urgent medical care will make their case before an immigration judge, and those who have not qualified for such exemptions will be placed in immigration proceedings. There, immigrants will present their case before an immigration judge, but if it is decided that their case is invalid the immigrant will be sent back to Haiti. The DHS stated that “those who cannot be expelled under Title 42 and do not have a legal basis to remain will be placed in expedited removal proceedings. DHS is conducting regular expulsion and removal flights to Haiti, Mexico, Ecuador, and Northern Triangle countries.”

Thousands of Haitian nationals have been moving to the U.S. hoping to seek asylum and find a better future for themselves, and their families. In 2010 Haiti experienced a massive earthquake, which irreversibly damaged the economy, infrastructure, and access to basic humanitarian needs. Many state that since then, the country has not been able to recover, with little access to adequate health care and opportunity for development. On July 7th 2021, Haitian President Jovenel Moïse was assassinated, which only deepened food insecurity, political instability, and economic turmoil in Haiti. Many believe that the recent spike in migrants on the Mexico-U.S. border is an impact of the President’s assassination. As Haitians looked to the U.S. as a chance for survival and economic relief, they were met by DHS agents who removed them from the international bridge, “in order to ensure that irregular migrants are swiftly taken into custody, processed, and removed from the United States consistent with our laws and policy,” according to a DHS statement

On September 19th, during the removal of immigrants from the international bridge, a series of images of border patrol agents violently removing Haitians using horses and whips were released. DHS Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas was quick to state that “agents use long reins — not whips — to control their horses.” However, the images caused an outrage on social media, with many government officials calling out the dehumanizing actions of the border agents. Mayorkas later stated that “We know that those images painfully conjured up the worst elements of our nation’s ongoing battle against systemic racism. We immediately contacted the Office of Inspector General and launched an investigation into the events that were captured in the disturbing images of horse patrol units.” According to Reuters News Agency, Haitian Prime Minister Ariel Henry was also quick to react, “It’s with great sorrow that we watch on social media, through television and listen on the radio to the tribulations of our brothers and sisters at the border of Mexico and the United States.” Hundreds of Haitian immigrants who were denied entry into the U.S. shared their devastation, stating “I left Haiti to go find a better future… If jobs could be created, we would never have exposed ourselves to this misery in other countries.” Another immigrant told Reuters, “I could have invested money here, I could have built a great business. It’s not like we don’t know how to do things… But we’re not respected, we’re humiliated and now we don’t have anyone to defend us.”

Ultimately, the brutal expulsion of immigrants should in no way be tolerated, the DHS needs to hold responsible officers accountable. Instead of placing the officers on administrative duty, the DHS needs to act quickly in their response, to ensure that a statement is made clear to the public. A relaxation of Title 42 limitations should also be considered, through which more exemptions on the basis of humanitarian protection should be granted. All immigrants at the border should have the opportunity to present their case before a judge, and access to humanitarian aid should be made available whilst they await a decision from the immigration court. This could be made through the creation of a legal parole program which examines every individual’s humanitarian needs, in accordance with Covid-19 levels in that given time period. Through these systems, the U.S. will be able to greatly decrease the levels of illegal immigration at the Mexico-U.S. border. Additionally, the economic and political crisis in Haiti needs to be addressed, through an increase in humanitarian aid, in order to stem an influx of migrants at the border. The international community as a whole needs to realize that Haitians are suffering, and if economic relief and political stability is not reached soon, the crisis will only deepen.