US policies are unfair to Haitian asylum seekers


President Joe Biden instituted a massive and accelerated deportation of Haitian and other black asylum seekers from the United States in one of the most aggressive deportations in recent history.

Reports of planes loaded with migrants forced to return to Haiti, evocative photographs of migrant camps in Del Rio, on the Texas border city ​​on the Rio Grande, and graphic images of black migrants chased and rounded up by U.S. Border Patrol agents on horseback, are exactly what the Biden campaign pledged to put into the past when it vowed to “undo the moral and national shame “of the previous administration.

The legal obligations of the United States towards the specific category of immigrants called asylum seekers derive from both international and domestic law. Although there is no obligation to grant asylum, US law grants such persons the opportunity to benefit from due process and a fair hearing.

This article recalls the policy areas involved in the conduct of the processing of asylum applications in recent years. This is the practice of border administration called meter or queue management, and the suspension of migrants’ rights in the Covid-19 era under Title 42.

It is clear that this set of new routines, introduced as temporary adaptations for the treatment of asylum seekers at ports of entry, has evolved into established practices that contravene pre-existing obligations of the law. Many asylum seekers experience these administrative innovations not as temporary aberrations, but as insurmountable obstacles that deprive them of the possibility of making asylum claims.


The fundamental principle of the Convention relating to the Status of Refugees (1951) and its Protocol (1967) is non-refoulement. He asserts that asylum seekers should not be returned to countries where they face serious threats to their life or freedom.

The principle of non-refoulement is reaffirmed in the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (CAT) and the International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance (ICPPED).

The US Congress incorporated this definition into US immigration law in the Refugee Act (1980). It is this legal obligation that is violated by recent immigration policies.

The “count” mainly targets black asylum seekers

This practice began as a temporary queue management measure. Claiming a lack of resources to handle large numbers of asylum seekers at once, border officials in San Ysidro, Calif., Began issuing tickets in 2016.

This practice mainly targets Haitian asylum seekers and other blacks. They are banned from entering the United States and are expected to register on a list on the Mexican side of the border.

Subsequently, the Trump administration extended the practice to the southern border, guiding Customs and Border Protection (CBP) to physically block entry into US soil. Once ticketed, potential asylum seekers would not show up at the border until their numbers arrived.

In practice, as the process was managed by a large number of organizations outside of CBP, there was no possibility of accountability; and CBP has shown no interest in making this a fair process. It was a liminal status that built up into a long backlog and could span years, leaving people stuck in dangerous limbo.

Summary deportations under Title 42 Discriminate

This policy names a practice of summary evictions that was initiated following the Covid-19 pandemic. Although apparently a public health measure, the policy is being carried out against the advice of health professionals from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Given the continued high volume of trafficking across the border during the pandemic, this also directly discriminates against asylum seekers who make up only a small fraction of all human trafficking at the border.

As part of this policy, a general blockade of the land entry of immigrants was carried out. These summary expulsions are a total denial of access to immigration and asylum procedures.

In the context of the pandemic, the effect of these evictions has been to force already vulnerable people into camps and other unsanitary living conditions in which the spread of the virus would be intensified. It is this policy that the administration uses to expel Haitian asylum seekers and other blacks, mainly Africans.

Despite lawsuits, Biden pursues Trump policies

A federal court ruled in September that the count denied migrants due process; and yet the administration continued to use meters to process black asylum seekers in Del Rio. There have been a number of attempts to take legal action over the legality of the Title 42 policy.

Immigrant justice organizations have sued the Trump administration for the Title 42 practice of subjecting unaccompanied children to deportation, which was successfully stopped by a federal judge, who ruled that it violated the law on protection of victims of trafficking and other laws.

After the federal court order was suspended in January 2021, the Biden administration changed the program to exempt unaccompanied children, resulting in unaccompanied children being exempted from deportation starting in November. 2020. Likewise, groups that sued the Trump administration have returned to court. immediately stop the policy and eventually end the deportation policy which restricts immigration to the border based on the illegal invocation of the Public Health Service Act which is stipulated in Title 42 of the US Code.

Despite legal actions against this repressive policy, the Biden administration has kept the policy in place for families of asylum seekers and single adults, although unaccompanied children are formally exempted.

Beyond the moral arguments and ideological differences to be expected in tackling the knotted immigration issues, advocates of migration justice have understood President Biden’s campaign promises as an abandonment of whim and freedom. cruelty.

While we had no illusions about Biden’s stance on immigration law enforcement the way previous Democratic administrations have done, especially to the detriment and exclusion of black migrants , there was, in our view, an expectation that asylum seekers would be protected. Instead, the Biden administration not only pursued some of Trump’s policies, but even went so far as to challenge court rulings that found those policies unfair.

This column does not necessarily reflect the opinion of the Bureau of National Affairs, Inc. or its owners.

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Nana Gymfi is the Executive Director of the Black Alliance for Just Immigration, the largest black-led racial justice and immigrant rights organization in the United States. She is also the current president of the National Conference of Black Lawyers.


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