Six Month Anniversary Del Rio report Details a Living Legacy of Anti-Haitian Discrimination in U.S. Immigration System

WASHINGTON, D.C.–Six months after photos revealed mounted Border Patrol agents chasing and grabbing Haitian migrants to prevent them from bringing food to their families, Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights and the Haitian Bridge Alliance have released a new report unveiling the full scope of the abuses that occurred in Del Rio, Texas, and in some cases are ongoing.

The joint report presents first-hand testimony of 43 Haitian and other survivors who were trapped by U.S. immigration officials in a makeshift encampment under the Del Rio International Bridge, subjected to violence, racial slurs and intimidation, and denied sufficient access to food, water, and medical care.

“The Del Rio crisis is a moment of national reckoning,” said Kerry Kennedy, President of Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights. “Fathers, mothers, and children who risked everything because of their belief in the promise and compassion of America were met instead with extreme militarization, brutal violence, hostility, and racism. The U.S. government must be held accountable for its actions depriving thousands of the opportunity to apply for asylum and violating international law. We must end Title 42 and the deportation of Haitian asylum seekers immediately.”

Haitian Bridge Alliance v. Biden, a pending federal class action lawsuit, asserts that the U.S. government’s actions at Del Rio were part of a larger strategy that was intentionally designed to send a message of deterrence to other Black immigrants: the United States will not protect you and will deport you back to danger.

To perpetrate these human rights abuses, the U.S. used the COVID-19 pandemic as a pretext. Invoking an obscure public health statute called Title 42, the Biden Administration fully embraced a Trump-era policy that claimed the unprecedented authority to prevent the entry into the country of people seeking humanitarian protection.

“As a Haitian-American woman, descendant of enslaved Africans in the Americas, I cannot disconnect this treatment of Black people in Del Rio from the historical treatment of Black people in the United States,” said Guerline Jozef, co-founder and executive director of Haitian Bridge Alliance. “The inhumane treatment while in CBP custody, including people shackled and forced on planes, is evidence that the entire system is deeply rooted in white supremacy. This mistreatment is not lost on the Haitian-American community as we remember how the United States dehumanized Haitians refugees fleeing persecution in the 1980s. We demand accountability and protection for all people in need of safety and to immediately end Title 42.”

The report includes testimonies and information obtained by the Haitian Bridge Alliance and Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights through in-person and phone interviews with survivors and witnesses, detailing human rights abuses committed by the Department of Homeland Security and others against Haitian immigrants in the Del Rio encampment. It also documents continued abuses inflicted on Black immigrants after the U.S. government hastened to clear Del Rio and erase all evidence of wrongdoing. Among them: continued mass expulsions of Haitians fleeing persecution and torture; continued abuses in ICE detention centers; and continued separation of family members.

A series of recommendations for the Biden administration to adopt to begin to rectify the harm it caused in Del Rio and beyond are also offered. They include immediately rescinding Title 42 and the Migration Protection Protocols, immigration policies that violate U.S. and international law and were designed to eliminate access to asylum for Black and brown people; providing increased funding and support for civil society organizations assisting asylum seekers at the U.S.-Mexico border; ending all expulsions and deportations to Haiti; fulfilling the Administration’s promise to investigate the human and civil rights abuses committed at Del Rio; providing humanitarian parole to those harmed; ending all ICE contracts with for-profit prisons and updating the Haiti’s eligibility date for Temporary Protected Status.

“The horrific images of Border Patrol on horseback at Del Rio attacking Black asylum seekers trying to bring food to their starving families rightfully shocked the collective conscience. But far from an isolated event, those images encapsulate the cruelty of our immigration system as a whole,” Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights Senior Vice President Wade McMullen said. “The violence and anti-Black racism on full display in Del Rio plays out every single day at ports of entry, in detention center centers, in immigration courts, and on deportation flights. Del Rio is every day.”

A copy of the report can be viewed in full here.