See also news article, “Protesters Demand Asylum for Haitian Refugees.”
Washington’s callous disregard for the lives of thousands of Haitian refugees—whom it is forcibly repatriating into a country torn by daily violence and ravaged by hunger and poverty—calls for worldwide outcry.
The disastrous humanitarian crisis in Haiti is so severe that even Washington recognizes it. When it extended Temporary Protected Status (TPS) to Haitians in the United States in May, the Department of Homeland Security said it was doing so “due to extraordinary and temporary conditions in Haiti that prevent nationals from returning safely, specifically, a political crisis and human rights abuses; serious security concerns.” It concluded, “The designation of Haiti for TPS also is not contrary to the national interest of the United States.”
The brutal deportation of thousands of Haitians in September flies in the face of these facts. As a protester outside the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services in Miami plainly put it, “You promised, and you lied!”
The cruelty of the Biden administration’s policy has been so egregious that even the U.S. envoy to Haiti could not stomach it. He quit his job and blasted the mass deportations as “inhumane” and “counterproductive.”
The White House defends its barbaric deportation policy using U.S. Code Title 42—a Trump-era law allowing federal agents to deport most immigrants back to Mexico or to their country of origin without a chance to apply for asylum. Biden and Vice-president Harris rationalize this cruel treatment of refugees as a measure to protect public health in the middle of a pandemic, just as Trump did. But the U.S. government has the resources to test those seeking asylum for Covid-19 infections, as well as to quarantine and treat those in need. It can—and should—offer vaccinations, which fewer than 1% of Haiti’s population has been able to obtain so far.
The Biden administration shed crocodile tears over scenes of Haitians crossing the Rio Grande attacked by border patrol agents on horseback using reins as whips to turn asylum seekers back to Mexico. These horrific images were reminiscent of the brutality inflicted on enslaved Africans by Southern planters during slavery and other racists during the Jim Crow era. They rightly caused widespread indignation. But the mass expulsions have already inflicted greater pain and misery. While trying to shift the blame onto “rogue” agents at the border, the White House continued to force thousands back to Haiti.
Working people and all supporters of social justice in the United States have no interest in keeping U.S. borders closed to our Haitian brothers and sisters facing such desperate conditions. In the interests of human solidarity—and international working-class solidarity above all—we must demand an open door for all Haitian refugees. They should be granted asylum in the United States. Other immigrants from Central America and elsewhere facing similar crises in their countries of origin should be given the same opportunity.
Liberal and conservative politicians alike argue that such a policy would open the floodgates, encourage even more immigration, and increase competition for jobs in the United States. Yet across the country employers complain of a labor shortage. “Help wanted” signs can be seen all over. Workers are needed in factories and fields. Restaurants, grocery stores, hotels, and other businesses from Maine to California and from Washington State to Florida are seeking new employees.
What is the source of the widespread humanitarian, economic, and political crises that has created today’s flood of refugees? Those who earlier fled the Syrian civil war or are fleeing Afghanistan today, who get on rickety boats trying to cross the Mediterranean to reach southern Europe from Africa, and others leaving Haiti or Central America are all victims of the worldwide crisis of capitalism. This is a social system based on maximizing profits for a tiny minority instead of meeting the basic human needs of the vast majority.
Capitalists and the politicians who serve them try to exacerbate divisions among workers by targeting the most vulnerable groups, such as immigrants, to weaken the ability of all labor to defend and improve our standard of living and democratic rights. Right-wing groups, appealing to the economic insecurity generated by the pandemic, try to blame society’s ills on immigrants.
At the same time, Wall Street financiers and other capitalists travel the world for leisure and business. They own villas in Acapulco or Paris, on virtually every continent. They do what they want, when they want, and rarely, if ever, have to worry about being denied visas. They invest their money in Africa, Asia, Latin America, or wherever they choose, and take out profits at will. But when it comes to refugees, the right to travel, live, and work where they choose is strictly limited. There are no borders for capital, only for labor.
Washington’s immigration policy today should be answered by broad-based protests. We should point out the long record of intervention and exploitation of Haiti by Washington and its allies, which has led to the crises of the last decade and has forced tens of thousands of Haitians to flee their country and seek a decent life elsewhere.
Public condemnation of forced repatriations has already come from some government officials. A limited number of politicians, trade unions—including the AFL-CIO—and organizations in the Black community such as the NAACP Legal Defense Fund have also spoken out. The labor movement should take the lead in alliance with Haitian groups to organize the sentiment against mass expulsions into powerful protest actions that can apply pressure on Washington.
We must demand: Halt the deportations of Haitians now! Open the borders to all Haitian refugees! Asylum, not mass expulsions!