From coast to coast, thousands of people in 25 US cities marched on September 23 to demand that President Biden live up to his campaign promises to end inhumane treatment of migrants, notably the mass deportation of Haitian refugees clustered under a bridge in South Texas, along with whippings and beatings from Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents trying to stop all migrants across the US southern border.
Instead, they declared, Biden should institute policies he promised on the campaign trail: stopping deportations, reuniting families ICE raids split, closing detention centers—especially private for-profit ones—and stopping violence and inhumane treatment of detainees by ICE agents.
The pictures could have come directly out of coverage of Donald Trump’s horror show on the border: fascistic Border Patrol agents herding fearful Haitian families on the Texas border and shipping them off by the thousands for immediate deportation.
In order to carry out the attack on the Haitians, large numbers of extra Border Patrol agents were sent to the encampment of the Haitian immigrants who were rounded up and, as if Trump were still in power, sent back to their “home” country. Only this time Haiti is not even the home country for most of the deported immigrants. They lived for 10 or more years in Central and South American countries other than Haiti. Many had friends and relatives in Brooklyn, New York, for example, who were more than willing to house and shelter them. Brooklyn is home to the largest Haitian community anywhere in the world outside of Haiti.
Demonstrators across the country today insisted too that the Democratic majority in Congress should go the extra mile and solve the underlying immigration issue in the country by passing comprehensive immigration reform, including a path to legalization, for all migrants.
Activists say that the statements by the administration and by Vice President Kamala Harris that the horrific scenes of agents using whips on immigrants were “unacceptable” and “inappropriate” were not enough and that the administration and Democrats need to act to solve the problem. “How are you different than Trump?” asked Marisa Franco, executive director of Mijente, in a statement issued by the Latino civil rights group.
The Biden administration claims that it has always been committed to humane immigration policies but has faced roadblocks. The Supreme Court blocked Biden when he tried to bring thousands waiting in squalor on the Mexican side of the border into the country for processing. The Court upheld lower court rulings that the Trump policy of corralling them there was legal.
Federal judges have thrown up other roadblocks and only last Sunday the Senate parliamentarian committee said Biden’s plan for a pathway to citizenship for hundreds of thousands of immigrants could not be included in the reconciliation process to get it to become law.
The Republicans have blocked any legislative attempts at immigration reform and are hypocritically blasting Biden for “allowing uncontrolled immigration into the country,” as Missouri’s neo-fascist Republican Sen. Josh Hawley said this week. They would like nothing better than to see a Democratic administration fail to solve the immigration problem. Immigration and chaos surrounding the withdrawal from Afghanistan are their two best talking points, considering that the president’s Build Back Better Agenda is massively popular with Americans.
None of this is stopping immigrant rights advocates from pointing out correctly, however, that it is the responsibility of the Biden administration to act on its own promises.
United We Dream, Defund Hate, and We Are Home coalitions organized the “Communities Not Cages” day of action campaign on September 23. Backers included the Service Employees, the National Domestic Workers Alliance, the United Farm Workers, and the American Friends Service Committee.
The Washington DC rally drew several hundred people to Lafayette Square across from the White House. Rallies, silent vigils outside ICE offices, and other events drew tens of thousands more, combined, nationwide.
Migrants’ backers rallied outside the chapel at Loyola University on Chicago’s North Side, held a press conference/rally at Foley Square in Manhattan, gathered for two rallies—one outside an ICE office—in Atlanta, and added a rally outside the federal building in Los Angeles and a silent vigil outside ICE’s Hutto Detention Center in Taylor, Texas.
Participants festooned the rallies with signs demanding legalization and an end to deportations. “Close The Camps,” DC rally signs read. “We Are Essential” others stated, below a picture of a migrant farm worker. “Free Them All,” read a third.
“Down, down, down with deportation! Up, up, up with liberation!” was one of the repeated chants from the crowds in DC.
Speakers demanded Biden end the racist, anti-Black anti-migrant detention and expulsion policies he inherited from his predecessor, Republican Donald Trump, and before him, Democrat Barack Obama. Biden was Obama’s VP.
Mounted agents whipping people
Activists also denounced ICE and Border Patrol tactics, including horrifying pictures of mounted agents literally whipping people, all of them Black and mostly Haitian, who were trying to enter the US.
ICE, speakers said, should be abolished. Families that its raids inside the US split should be reunited, with detainees returning to their communities, pending formal hearings on their requests to stay here.
And to add insult to such injuries, United We Dream’s Grace Martínez Rojas, emceeing the DC event, announced the latest news: Biden wants to ship some rounded-up migrants to the detention center at the US naval base in Guantánamo Bay, Cuban territory occupied by the US. Under GOP congressional pressure, that center has remained open for 20 years to detain alleged al-Qaeda supporters following the 9/11 attacks.
“We are here to send a clear message to the Biden administration and the Democrats that we need more than words,” she declared. “ICE and the Border Patrol are rooted in white supremacy” in both agents’ views and agency tactics.
Speakers also told stories of inhumane treatment in the detention centers inside the U.S. and migrant camps along the U.S.-Mexico border. The Krome Detention Center in Florida was a particular target. But one speaker pointed out the more migrants whom private centers jail, the more money they make.
In a tape, in Spanish, Florida resident Hector Granado, detained in Krome since ICE agents arrested him as he left for work last October 20, said “part of ICE’s operation is isolation” from families and communities.
A migrant who identified himself only as Daniel, from the Haitian Bridge Alliance, told the DC crowd that he had been in and out of five centers in Southern California. “The US has specifically targeted Black immigrants,” he said.
Those migrants “are fleeing to seek freedom, yet what do we find in the land of freedom? Detention. Medical neglect. Discrimination. A system that’s inherently abusive and unfair.” Female detainees “suffered gynecological exams without their consent.”
But it’s not just Krome or the center he cited, in Irwin, California, that are problems, speakers said. It’s all the centers and the policy that drives them.
“Since taking office, the Biden administration has called for over $24 billion to fund ICE and CBP for fiscal year 2022 and continued to commit violent anti-Black attacks that were pillars of the Trump administration’s white nationalist agenda,” Defund Hate’s statement said.
“Following the horrific photos that surfaced of violence against Haitian migrants at the hands of Border Patrol agents, the Biden administration has carried out at least four additional mass expulsion flights of Haitian asylum seekers, with three more scheduled for later this afternoon.” Biden also appealed federal court rulings against the section of immigration law, Title 42, that justifies detentions and deportations.
Martínez Rojas also had a promise for Biden and Congress if they fail to act—a likely prospect for the immediate future, as comprehensive immigration reform has been ruled out of the package of “reconciliation” legislation now moving through Congress.
“We will not rest, we will not stop, until everybody is free,” she vowed.
Featured image: Migrants, mostly from Haiti, at an encampment along the Del Rio International Bridge near the Rio Grande, in Del Rio, Texas, on September 21, 2021. Photo: Julio Córtez/AP
- scorinocohttps://orinocotribune.com/author/sahelicot92/March 3, 2024