AILA Public Statements, Press Releases

More than 40 Human and Civil Rights Leaders: Ongoing Mistreatment and Expulsions of Haitians and Asylum Seekers Will Stain Biden’s Legacy

11/17/21 AILA Doc. No. 21111700. Admissions & Border, Asylum

WASHINGTON, D.C.- Nearly two months after leaders of 43 prominent human and civil rights organizations delivered a letter to the White House urging the Biden administration to take immediate action to end the violent expulsions of Haitian and other Black asylum seekers at the U.S-Mexico border and to restore asylum access, the signatories are once again calling on the White House to immediately end Title 42 expulsions and related anti-asylum practices and policies, which have continued unabated.

Since the letter was first delivered on September 21st, there have been several developments that highlight the growing need for urgent action, including:

  • A ramp up of direct expulsion flights to Haiti, putting thousands of lives at grave risk;
  • A failure to hold the abusive Del Rio sector CBP officers accountable for their heinous mistreatment of Haitian migrants;
  • The resignation of Harold Koh, a senior adviser and the sole political appointee on the State Department’s legal team, who called the use of Title 42 “illegal,” “inhumane” and “not worthy of this Administration that I so strongly support”;
  • The reopening of non-essential travel by the US government, even as it continues to block and expel asylum seekers on “public health grounds”;
  • The State Department urging all U.S. citizens in Haiti to leave the country, acknowledging Haiti’s deepening instability, while at the same time continuing to expel Haitian migrants and return them to Haiti.

The leaders warn the administration that its lack of meaningful action to address this ongoing crisis will represent a clear failure on the president's stated commitment to human rights and racial justice. Inaction also threatens to cement Biden's legacy as a president who continued, rather than stopped, the Trump administration's dismantling of the U.S. asylum system and its targeting of Black, Brown and Indigenous immigrant communities.

Signatories of the letter made the following statements:

Nana Gyamfi, Executive Director of Black Alliance for Just Immigration, said:
"Regrettably, this administration continues to create and support immigration policies that disproportionately and directly harm Black migrants, our families, and communities in spite of the President's Executive Order on racial equity. There is no racial equity in the racist Title 42, the mass expulsion of Haitian and other Black asylum-seekers at the US southern border. The enforcement priorities drag the racism embedded in the criminal legal system into the civil immigration system. The disproportionate detention of Black migrants, particularly in light of the administration’s refusal to vaccinate detained people as a tool of deterrence, is a mirror into this country's anti Black racism. In the letter we signed in September, we urged the President to choose "human rights over political demagoguery and fear." The President must do so now or have his legacy forever joined with the anti-Black immigration policies of his predecessor."

Melanie L. Campbell, President & CEO of the National Coalition on Black Civic Participation and Convener of the Black Women’s Roundtable said:
“It is past time for the Biden Administration to stop the unjust deportations of Black asylum seekers and grant them humanitarian parole now. Black immigrants have historically been discriminated against when it comes to immigration rights in our nation. Immigration is a Black issue and the administration needs to focus on racial equity in immigration now.”

Marc Morial, President & CEO of the National Urban League, said:
“Since its founding, the United States has opened its arms to men, women and children fleeing their home countries due to violence, persecution, lack of shelter and poverty. These families risk their lives to seek refuge here and should be met with compassion – not brutality,” said Marc H. Morial, President and CEO of the National Urban League. “The violence against Haitian migrants in Del Rio and mass deportations have left many in the Black community feeling like the inscription on the Statue of Liberty doesn’t apply to Black immigrants. The National Urban League urges the Biden Administration to put a stay on deportations of migrants, investigate the inhumane treatment at the border, and ensure fair treatment of all migrants and immigrants regardless of race.”

Judith Browne Dianis, Executive Director of Advancement Project - National Office states:
“We need the Biden Administration to prioritize the lives of Black migrants by immediately stopping the deportations of thousands of Black asylum seekers and grant humanitarian parole. Otherwise, we are escalating a crisis of our making. Our immigration laws should protect and support every immigrant, no exceptions. The safest immmigration system is one that is centered on humane treatment, meaningful legislation that recognizes the dignity of immigrants,and an investment in resources to asylum seekers and other migrants so that they can thrive”

Breanne Palmer, Interim Policy & Advocacy Director at the UndocuBlack Network, said:
“If the Biden Administration does not change course immediately, it will cement its immigration legacy as no different than its vile predecessor: motivated by unhindered racial animus, willfully ignorant of public health and science, and truly determined to flout international and domestic asylum and refugee law. In the two months since the anti-Black attacks on Haitian migrants at Del Rio, we have seen neither the results of a swift investigation nor any plans to cease using Title 42 as a thin cover for racially-motivated expulsions at the border. These atrocities must end.”

Vince Warren, Executive Director at the Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR), said:
"We had hoped that this administration would lead the shift from a cruel, punitive and racially exclusionary border policy to one that is lawful and protective, but unfortunately, we have seen little evidence of that. This government-made crisis needs an immediate, corrective government-made solution."

Kica Matos, Vice President of Strategic Initiatives at the Vera Institute of Justice, said:
“The President is failing to lead at this critical and legacy-defining moment. Not only has he done little to stop the expulsions and mistreatment of asylum-seeking families—most of whom are Black or Indigenous migrants—but he also continues to defend some of the most cruel, inhumane, and unlawful immigration policies of the Trump-era. The President is squandering a historic opportunity to break free from decades of failed practice that equates detention and deterrence with due process and dignity. President Biden can end this cycle if he starts to create an immigration system grounded in human rights and an end to detention. The President must step up and lead on immigration.”

Sirine Shebaya, Executive Director of the National Immigration Project, said:
"In the two months following Border Patrol's racist and heinous mistreatment of Haitian migrants at Del Rio, the Biden administration has failed to address the inhumanity and suffering that it has perpetuated at the Southern Border. By acknowledging the growing instability in Haiti while callously continuing to expel Haitian migrants from the U.S., President Biden is essentially doubling down on the anti-Black and racist policies he claimed he was elected to undo. We urge the Biden administration to listen to the calls from migrants, advocates, and human rights leaders and act immediately to end Title 42, restore the U.S. asylum system, and welcome migrants with dignity."

Mary Meg McCarthy, Executive Director at the National Immigrant Justice Center (NIJC), said:
“The Trump Administration created new policies out of whole cloth that were designed to close the United States borders to Brown, Black, and Indigenous migrants and asylum seekers. Nearly a year into the Biden Administration, we are pained when our clients ask us why things haven’t changed. Title 42 expulsions and MPP are not border management tools – they are remnants of white supremacist policy making that should have ended months ago. The Biden administration must not be remembered as the administration that allowed the end of asylum access in the United States. The time to act is now.”

Allen Orr, President of the American Immigration Lawyers Association said:
“The administration is failing to do the right thing at our Southern border and is causing harms to thousands of Black and Brown asylum seekers, families and individuals seeking protection. I cannot understand why the government refuses to treat Haitians like human beings who are fleeing from persecution, conflict and disaster and deserve a meaningful opportunity to apply for asylum or other legal relief without being subject to harsh enforcement and deterrence tactics. AILA’s Immigration Justice Campaign, a joint project with the American Immigration Council, has directly assisted Haitians who have been detained unnecessarily at a facility in Torrance County, New Mexico and are experiencing inadequate medical treatment, substandard nutrition, and obstacles to gaining access to their attorneys. The Biden administration needs to take action, now.”

Conchita Cruz, Co-Executive Director of the Asylum Seeker Advocacy Project (ASAP), said:
"ASAP members are worried about their families who are seeking asylum at the border the same way they did - but are denied basic protections by the Biden administration under Title 42. The Title 42 policy not only excludes Black, Brown, and indigenous asylum seekers, but continues to solidify the Biden Administration's legacy of cruelty and unlawfulness toward asylum seekers."

Maribel Hernandez Rivera, ACLU Deputy National Political Director, said:
“President Biden must follow through on his campaign promises and end its embrace of policies that inflict cruelty on Black, Brown and Indigenous immigrant communities. Instead, the Biden administration has doubled down on cruelly deporting Haitian migrants and many others. This must end.”

Avideh Moussavian, Director of Federal Advocacy at the National Immigration Law Center, said:
“President Biden continues to forcibly return Haitians to the very conditions they fled without due process. This is legally and morally unacceptable and is yet another in a mounting list of failings by this administration to live up to the campaign promises that got President Biden elected. We will continue to fight this policy and other anti-Black policies like it, and push to hold this administration accountable. Now is the time for the Biden administration to discard a misguided political calculus and instead lead with courage and humanity to do everything in its power to fulfill its promise to build a 21st century immigration system that centers the dignity of everyone.”

Cynthia Garcia, National Campaign Manager for Community Protection at United We Dream, said:
“President Biden ran for office on the premise of being different from his predecessor, denouncing the very same policies, like Title 42, which he has fought for to keep in place. So far, his actions have fallen short. In order to create a welcoming immigration system President Biden must take bold action against ending Trump-era policies. The Biden administration can’t protect immigrant communities while upholding white nationlist policies like Title 42. Refusing to end these policies, puts the onus on their catastrophic results squarely on President Biden’s shoulders. Today, Title 42 continues to subject Haitain and other Black asylum seekers at the U.S.-Mexico border to abuse and trauma. This administration can and must do everything in its power to immediately and urgently end Title 42 and deliver citizenship to millions of undocumented people living under the threat of violent expulsions and deportations.”

Michael Breen, President and CEO of Human Rights First, said:
“Restoring America’s reputation around the world as a beacon of safety and welcome is not only the right thing to do, it is in our nation’s enlightened self interest. We once again call on the administration to end the large-scale expulsions of our Haitian neighbors and the continued use of policies that illegally block people from seeking U.S. protection at our borders. It is past time to restore rule of law at the US-Mexico border and restart asylum at ports of entry.”

Sarah Costa, Executive Director of the Women’s Refugee Commission, said:
“President Biden campaigned on a promise to restore humanity and due process in an asylum system that was dismantled under the Trump administration and grounded in cruelty and chaos. Yet each day that policies like expulsions under Title 42 or plans to reimplement the “Remain in Mexico” program continue, the administration deepens its legacy of perpetuating deterrence systems based on xenophobia and racism. We call on the administration to immediately end its mass expulsions of Haitians and others seeking asylum, and to finally restore access to the legally protected right to seek asylum along U.S. borders, including at ports of entry.”