Members of the Congressional Black Caucus met Wednesday with several Biden administration officials to voice their concerns about the treatment of Haitian migrants at the Texas border, Congresswoman Yvette Clarke told Bk Reader.
"They were very receptive to our message that, one, we were outraged by the position that the administration took to swiftly deport the Haitian migrants without due process," said Clarke, whose 9th Congressional District includes a significant population of Haitian-Americans.
"Secondly, we called for a halt to the deportations and some level of humanitarian parole or some level of an asylum process for people who we consider refugees on our border."
The administration officials "were extremely apologetic and outraged themselves with the conduct of some border patrol officers who were seen by the world on horseback, using reins to basically whipped and corraled the migrants who were trying to surrender themselves."
Clarke confirmed an Associated Press report that migrants living in unsanitary makeshift camps in Del Rio were being released in the United States. Many of them received notices to appear at an immigration office within 60 days.
Still, deportation flights to Haiti continued. Seven daily flights to the impoverished Caribbean nation were planned for Wednesday. Clarke said far fewer migrants were being deported as far as she knew about the situation that's constantly changing.
"I'm not easing up on the pressure at all. There's a lot more work to be done," the congresswoman added.
Crisis at the border
The Biden administration was unprepared to manage the estimated 15,000 Haitian migrants who overwhelmed Border Patrol agents in Del Rio last week.
Many of the migrants were refugees from the 2010 earthquake in Haiti that killed more than 200,000 people, according to The New York Times. They found refuge in Brazil, Chile and other Latin American countries that granted them work visas.
An economic crisis in those countries, brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic, caused financial struggles for scores of the Haitian migrants who found themselves unwanted in those countries.
Rumors about an open U.S. border prompted many of them to journey to the United States in the expectation that Biden's immigration policy would be more welcoming than those of former President Donald Trump.
Upon reaching the U.S. border, many of the migrants camped under and around a bridge, awaiting interviews with U.S. officials to seek asylum.
On Saturday, the Biden administration outlined a strategy to manage the sudden surge of migrants. The plan had six components that included sending more customs agents to Del Rio, moving migrants to other processing locations, providing humanitarian relief, and deportations.
The squalid conditions at the camps sparked an outcry. Protests grew louder when the administration started deporting the migrants.
Outrage in Brooklyn
"We are appalled by what we've seen at the Southern border," Marc Francois, director of policy and partnerships for Brooklyn-based Haitian American Caucus (HAC), told BK Reader.
"It seems that the administration and DHS (Department of Homeland Security) could do a lot more to provide for the needs of the Haitian migrants."
HAC was among the group of elected officials and activists who rallied Monday at Brooklyn Borough Hall to demand a halt to the deportations.
The community development nonprofit provides Haitian communities around the world with access to information and resources. In recent weeks, HAC has provided desperately needed resources in Haiti after the earthquake in August and the tropical storm that followed.
Francois said many of the deportees were "on their own" upon returning to Haiti. They must rely on whatever community ties are there, as many of them migrated to South and Central America after the devastating 2010 earthquake.
"Heart-wrenching scenes," Assemblymember Rodneyse Bichotte Hermelyn, whose 42nd District includes Flatbush and East Flatbush, described the images she saw at the border.
"America is a country built upon immigrant's dreams, grit and hard work," added the Haitian-American lawmaker. "It is with an urgency that I beg the Biden administration to find the compassion to allow the Haitian families and children in Del Rio to stay."
Councilmember Farah Louis, whose 45th District centers on East Flatbush and Flatbush, also criticized the administration.
"I am absolutely disgusted with the Biden Administration and the inhumane treatment of our Haitian sisters and brothers in Del Rio, Texas," said Louis, a Haitian-American.
"The U.S. is supposed to lead by example, extending compassion and treating human beings with dignity and respect."