Biden takes heat for Haitian migrant border crisis: ‘Lives in jeopardy’

EXCLUSIVE: White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki told theGrio's April Ryan during Monday's press briefing: "Our immigration policy is not about discriminating against one country over another."

White House officials are pushing back against advocacy groups, saying there is no discrimination in the deportation of Haitian immigrants against other nations seeking asylum in the United States.  

White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki solemnly said from the press briefing room in response to a question posed by theGrio, “our immigration policy is not about one country or discriminating against one country over another. We want to put an end to that and what we saw over the last four years.”

U.S. Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas toured the U.S.-Mexico border area Monday to survey the matter, something that was insisted by the Congressional Black Caucus, according to CBC Chair U.S. Congresswoman Joyce Beatty.

“My heart aches for the people of Haiti, who are currently experiencing unimaginable political and economic upheaval,” Beatty said in a statement. “As we address the current surge of Haitian people, it is critical that we approach the situation focused on fairness and the safety of all involved. I will continue to fight to see that refugees are welcome in America, regardless of race or country of origin.”

Ohio Congresswoman Joyce Beatty

Beatty has contacted Secretary Mayorkas to request that he immediately assess the situation and ensure that humanitarian assistance — including lavatory facilities, food, and water — is being provided to those being processed, especially children. The Ohio congresswoman has also called for the DHS secretary to provide a comprehensive briefing to the Congressional Black Caucus on the status of Haitian migrants and on whether alternatives exist for their relocation.

CBC members sought answers on the Haitian migrant crisis at the southern border at a previously scheduled celebration of the caucus’ 50th anniversary with Vice President Kamala Harris and Second Gentleman Doug Emhoff Monday evening at the Naval Observatory for a previously scheduled audience. Vice President Harris assured Congressional Black Caucus members that the Biden-Harris administration is “working on it,” several members told theGrio.

U.S. Vice President Kamala Harris (Photo by Drew Angerer/Getty Images)

On the table of options for President Joe Biden is halting deportations or temporary suspensions of Haitian deportations. 

Currently, the United States is bringing Afghans who supported the United States in the 20-year war in Afghanistan after a vetting process and a processing effort. As the United States southern borders are closed there are Mexican immigrants who are seeking asylum and being processed by Immigration and Naturalization Services (INS).

However, Haitians are being deported back to their country, which is currently experiencing political upheaval with the assassination of its former president, concerns about the upcoming democratic elections, the fear of gangs and several earthquakes that have brought the poorest country in the western hemisphere to ruin.

Haitian immigrants cross the Rio Grande back into Mexico from Del Rio, Texas on September 20, 2021 to Ciudad Acuna, Mexico. (Photo by John Moore/Getty Images)

Texas Congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee tells theGrio that she hopes to visit the border by the end of the week and says this is a “dire situation” with a larger contingent of Haitians and Mexicans looking for “equal treatment and fairness for the Haitians who are seeking asylum from persecution.”

Meanwhile, the congresswoman sees this is “a difficult situation for the administration,” as this is a “crisis and funding issue that needs to be reworked for a more responsible immigration system in this country.” 

Haitian immigrant advocates have a message for President Biden: “The world is watching.” This is emphasized by immigration activist Guerline Jozef of the Haitian Bridge Alliance, who is in Del Rio, Texas — the site of a bridge where a massive migration of Mexicans and Hatians are stalled awaiting United States immigration processing. 

On Saturday, Biden officials began processing migrants from Haiti and flying them back to their home country, which was met with criticism from advocates and even members of Congress. “This is absolutely unacceptable. Amid a once-in-a-generation civic and humanitarian crisis in Haiti, @POTUS should be halting Haitian deportations, not expediting them,” tweeted U.S. Congressman of New York, Mondaire Jones.

The Biden administration announced Monday that it was extending its cap on refugee admissions to 125,000 — a campaign promise President Biden has made and more recently pledged to do by the start of the new fiscal year. However, the new cap would not include the thousands of Haitians currently in Del Rio, Texas, as they are not considered refugees. In order to reach refugee status, officials will have to process them.

Jozef is reaching out trying to dialogue with lawmakers in efforts to prevent them “from turning their backs on them once again.” She says she is “tired of this repeated narrative,” as it relates to Haiti. 

“The United States and Haiti are putting Haitian lives in jeopardy. The government of Haiti says it can accept the deportees back,” Jozef tells theGrio.

Reports indicate that the estimate of Haitian migrants under that bridge in Del Rio is 12,000, meanwhile, a large portion of those migrants are Black Haitians who came to the border from South America. Many of those Haitians were those who left the country after the 2010 earthquake, while others traveled through 11 borders and are now stuck at the southern border.

Patrice Lawrence, co-director of UndocuBlack Network, was in tears when speaking with theGrio about her outrage over what she sees as inhumane treatment of Haitian migrants.  

Lawrence emotionally discussed the pictures and videos she saw of men on horseback while whipping Haitian immigrants being detained under the bridge in Del Rio. “I’m very angry. I’m very angry in this moment and at this time. There are photos that are being released that are showing CBP officers grabbing people by their shirts,” she shares. 

“They’re on horses, and I cannot tell the difference between 2021 and the 1800s [when there were] slave catchers … those are things that I thought only existed in history books at this point.”  

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