On Anniversary of Del Rio Disaster, Immigration Advocates Demand End to Haitian Removals

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: September 15th, 2022

Contact: Alexandra Gulden

[email protected]

Washington DC—On the one-year anniversary of the human rights disaster in Del Rio, Texas, the Quixote Center and 19 organizational co-sponsors are delivering a petition to the White House calling on the Biden administration to halt all removals of Haitian migrants, including interdictions and repatriations at sea. The petition also appeared in The Hill and included over 600 individual signatures alongside co-sponsoring organizations.

In mid-September of 2021, thousands of migrants began gathering at the Del Rio border crossing in Texas. The majority of the estimated 15,000 people who arrived over the course of a few days were from Haiti. In images that shocked the world, Border Patrol agents on horseback forced Haitian refugees into the Rio Grande, even appearing to use their reins to strike at fleeing migrants. Despite the national outrage, it took less than one week for the administration to disappear all 15,000 people from the public view.

In the year since, the humanitarian crisis in Haiti continues to deteriorate. In July alone, over 500 people were killed as a result of armed groups fighting in Port-au-Prince. Last week, thousands of people across the country mobilized to protest the growing insecurity, rising costs, the fuel crisis, and Prime Minister Ariel Henry.

The administration has expelled 26,700 Haitians since taking office, over 24,400 just since the Del Rio crisis in September of 2021. Additionally, since October of 2021, the Coast Guard has interdicted at least 7,137 Haitian migrants at sea. The vast majority have been immediately returned to Haiti. At least 220 deaths or disappearances of Haitian migrants have been reported at sea this year as a result of attempting this dangerous journey.

“The human rights crisis in Del Rio laid bare the anti-Blackness and xenophobia inherent in our country’s immigration system. That the Biden administration continues to expel refugees to dire conditions in Haiti shows an utter lack of regard for Black and Brown lives,” said Dr. Kim Lamberty, Executive Director of the Quixote Center. “Seeking asylum is legal, no matter who seeks it or how. The administration must halt its policy of deterrence and removal, and acknowledge a real existing refugee crisis in Haiti, one that this country has contributed to creating.”

“Who isn’t questioning why Haitian migrants are deported with such efficiency and vigor instead of supported as we do migrants from all other countries coming across our southern border at this time? We expect more compassion from this administration. Our Catholic faith, among many other faiths, teaches that every one of us is endowed with human dignity; no one is more important than another. The National Advocacy Center calls on President Biden and his administration to treat migrants from Haiti with respect, equality and welcome and to end the deportations,” said Fran Eskin-Royer, Executive Director of the National Advocacy Center of the Sisters of the Good Shepherd.

“Haitians have the right to seek safety and the right to be treated with dignity while seeking safety. The images from Del Rio one year ago shocked our nation’s conscience and were a clarion call to confront the anti-Black racism that Haitians face while seeking asylum in the United States,” said Melina Roche, Campaign Manager of #WelcomeWithDignity. “Tragically, our government has returned more than 24,500 people, including young children, to a country in deep crisis. We joined our partners in delivering the petition to the White House to demand the administration stop its discriminatory expulsion of Haitians seeking protection and restore humanity and access to our asylum system.”

“Maryknoll missioners in Haiti witness the unfolding three crises of violence, political corruption, and deepening poverty that make it clear that people fleeing to the United States from Haiti deserve protection,” said Susan Gunn, Director of the Maryknoll Office for Global Concerns. “Many Haitians are indeed fleeing for their lives, and it is our moral duty to welcome them. We ask President Biden to stop all removals of Haitian migrants and to follow the teachings of Pope Francis, to welcome, protect, promote, and integrate migrants who are so desperately in need of safety.”

“The humanitarian catastrophe at Del Rio one year ago was a terrible example of the systemic violence that U.S. immigration authorities inflict on Haitians, including the highest rates of asylum denials and a disturbing history of offshore detention and maritime interdiction of asylum seekers,” said Anthony Enriquez, Vice President of U.S. Advocacy and Litigation at Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights. “If the Biden Administration is serious about honoring its commitment to advance equity and racial justice, it must break with the U.S.’s long, bipartisan history of anti-Black violence in immigration and immediately halt removals of Haitians.”

“We once again call on the administration to end all returns of our Haitian neighbors to danger and the continued use of policies that illegally block people from seeking U.S. protection at our borders,” said Jennifer Quigley, Senior Director for Government Affairs at Human Rights First. “It is past time that the U.S. government restore compliance with refugee law and ensure equitable treatment of all refugees regardless of their skin color.”

Joining the petition led by the Quixote Center are the American Civil Liberties Union, Beyond Borders, Catholics Against Racism in Immigration, Center for Gender and Refugee Studies, Faithful America, Haiti Response Coalition, Haitian Bridge Alliance, Human Rights First, Justice Action Center, Lawyers For Better Governance, Maryknoll Office for Global Concerns, National Advocacy Center of the Sisters of the Good Shepherd, Pax Christi USA, PCUSA, Religious of Jesus and Mary, RFK Human Rights, Sisters of Mercy of the Americas Justice Team, The Sidewalk School, and the #WelcomeWithDignity campaign.