“A lot of trauma”: Haitian families deported from the fight at the borders to recover

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Marinise Sinais Cedieu keeps replaying in her head what happened to her in Del Rio, Texas: being handcuffed in front of her 3-year-old son, the cries of another man whose handcuffs were too tight, spending a week without a meal hot.

Cedieu, a Haitian mother of two, arrived at the border hoping to make a better life for her family in the United States after first moving to Chile in 2016. Instead, she went. was found camped in appalling conditions for five days, hoping to be allowed entry.

On September 21, agents of the US Border Patrol forcibly abducted Cedieu, her husband and her son and quickly deported them to Haiti, a country she had not seen for five years where political instability, the violence and the coronavirus pandemic have changed lives.

Cedieu is one of 7,000 Haitians migrants and asylum seekers that the Biden administration recently deported to Haiti under Title 42, a Trump-era ordinance that allows immigration officials to quickly deport people crossing the border under the guise of trouble health related to a pandemic, usually without giving them the opportunity to apply for asylum.

The continued use of the policy has outraged lawmakers and immigration advocates, who have called on President Joe Biden to end deportations and repeal Title 42, a policy they call cruel and inhumane. While many Haitians initially hoped the Biden administration would keep up with immigration reforms and provide opportunities for the most vulnerable, many immigrants find themselves in even more difficult situations than before.

“It is just disappointing how arbitrary this American practice has been about who to deport and who not to deport,” said Nicole Phillips, legal director of Haitian Bridge Alliance, an immigration advocacy group at non-profit. “[The administration] suppose there is a choice, that Haitian migrants choose to come to the US-Mexico border. But in my experience speaking with Haitian migrants, their main concern is to be in a politically stable and secure environment, after the trauma of living in Haiti.

One disaster after another

In Haiti, Cedieu was experiencing financial difficulties and could not find sustainable work to support his two children.

Since then, the situation in this Caribbean country has only worsened.

In July, the Haitian president was assassinated after months of political turmoil and instability that only intensified. In August, a magnitude 7.2 earthquake struck the southwest of the country, leaving more than 2,000 dead, 12,000 injured and more than 650,000 people. urgent need humanitarian aid. At least 59% of the Haitian population lives below the poverty line, while 24% live in extreme poverty – and wealth disparities are only expected to increase due to high levels of inequality and slow economic growth from the country.

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Considered one of the most unequal countries in the region, Haiti’s lack of public services, including access to health care, clean water and education, is a direct consequence of the the fragility of the country’s public institutions and governance, which are rooted in a legacy of colonialism and authoritarianism. Haiti is also one of the few countries in the world that has yet to administer a vaccine against COVID-19, and the pandemic has taken its toll.

“The Americas region needs to come together and not just push Haitians onto someone else,” Phillip said. “They must come together and find solutions so that Haitians are welcomed as asylum seekers, as refugees who cannot return to their country.

“The failures we have seen from the Biden-Harris administration to provide care and compassion to Haitians are one such example of how politics has been intentionally blind to black people. “

– Patrice Lawrence, executive director of the UndocuBlack Network

Anti-blackness in the Americas

Many Haitian migrants have sought refuge in South America in search of work and lax border restrictions. Chile is home to one of the largest Haitian diasporas in the world, according to the Los Angeles Times, as many Haitians migrated to the Andean nation following the 2010 earthquake. In 2012, fewer than 2,000 Haitians resided in Chile; by 2020, the number had grown to 182,000.

Cedieu and her husband were able to get by in Chile and even had their second child there. But they described difficult conditions, and they had to leave Cedieu’s eldest son in Haiti with his family because they couldn’t get him a passport.

Phillips has interviewed dozens of Haitian migrants stranded in Mexico over the past few weeks, and many told him they had faced racism and xenophobia in South America that drove them north. Her clients said they were not paid properly and received little or no support when they sought law enforcement assistance. A Haitian father told Phillips his daughter was the target of sexual assault. Another woman said she was discharged from a hospital while in labor.

In Chile, Cedieu and her husband heard about several family members who had successfully migrated to the United States. With former President Donald Trump, who made immigrants scapegoats and called Haiti and other nations “”shit country, a record number of Haitian migrants and asylum seekers assumed the Biden administration would welcome them with open arms.

A Colombian guide helps a Haitian father and daughter climb a steep mountain slope near the Colombian border with Panama on October 20, 2021. The 66-mile hike through dense rainforest and mountains is considered the longest stretch more difficult for migrants traveling from South America to the United States.

John Moore via Getty Images

The journey is often fraught with pitfalls and risks. To get to the United States, migrants and asylum seekers heading north from South America must traverse the jungle of the Darien Gap – the infamous 60-mile trek between Colombia and Panama where travelers have been victims of theft, rape, wildlife and drugs. traffickers.

Haitian and other black migrants and asylum seekers are particularly exposed to certain dangers, including “high rates of extortion and abuse by law enforcement and immigration, extortion and kidnapping by organized crime, and racism by the general population across the countries they are passing through, ”said Nicole Ramos, director of the Border Rights Project of Al Otro Lado.

When they arrive at the US-Mexico border, the US immigration system only compounds their challenges.

Believe in Biden’s America

The situation in Del Rio was anything but welcoming to Cedieu and thousands of other Haitians. In September, viral images circulated of border patrol officers on horseback chasing and whipping the reins of their horses against Haitian migrants, many of whom were camping along the river in Del Rio awaiting treatment by authorities. immigration.

Cedieu and his family spent five days under the international bridge connecting Del Rio to Ciudad Acunotwent to Mexico with thousands of other Haitians, waiting to meet with immigration officials. Food and clean water were scarce, she told The Bharat Express News via an interpreter. She knew that Haitians in the United States were qualified for Temporary protection status, by which the US government recognized the dangerous conditions in Haiti, and she hoped that her family would have the chance to finally find stability and security.

Instead, Cedieu watched border patrol agents rally Haitian families around her. She and other mothers tried to ask for help, including diapers for their babies, but were turned down. Her son developed diarrhea which led to an infection. Cedieu says he is still in pain today.

“It’s not fair to treat people the way I’ve been treated,” Cedieu said. “I am not a criminal.

Although the US Department of Homeland Security has announced that it has launched an investigation into the case, that has not stopped the Biden administration from continuing with deportation flights, removing hundreds of Haitians every day. Between September 19 and October 3, the United States deported more than 7,000 Haitians, including hundreds of families with children, according to the Department of Homeland Security.

“To see people with their families and continue to send them back to Haiti, there is no conscience,” Cedieu said.

“The border is a linear death camp.”

– Nicole Ramos, director of the Border Rights Project of Al Otro Lado

“There is something anti-black in these policies. Immigration policy in the United States is not designed to benefit black people in general, and at other times we have seen laws specifically designed to exclude blacks and Haitians, ”Patrice said. Lawrence, executive director of the UndocuBlack Network. “The failures we have seen from the Biden-Harris administration to provide care and compassion to Haitians are one such example of how politics has been intentionally blind to black people. “

These failures manifest themselves in multiple ways, Lawrence said, including the fact that Haitians and other black migrants and refugees are not believed in asylum interviews which are often rushed or not even conducted in their own language.

In ongoing policies like Title 42, the Biden administration overlooks vulnerable people who need help, immigration advocates say.

“If you have governments that create circumstances that are going to lead to slow death, like lack of access to adequate housing, clothing, hygiene, clean water, medical services, you create conditions that are genocidal when you do it. knowingly. This is where we are. The border is a linear death camp, ”Ramos said.

Cedieu struggles in the Haitian countryside. She hasn’t found a job yet. She sold her house years ago and currently lives with relatives in a less than ideal situation.

But she doesn’t intend to stay long. She plans to return to Chile. The United States no longer seems to be an option for her.

“It was so much pain. [The U.S. government] didn’t need to do this to us, ”she said. “It’s a lot of trauma associated with it all.”

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