Customs and Border Protection (CBP) this month finally released the long-awaited report on the mistreatment of Haitian migrants at Del Rio last fall, but the demand for justice is nowhere near over. While the report said border agents used “unnecessary” force and derogatory language against migrants, investigators claimed they found “no evidence” that agents “struck, intentionally or otherwise, any migrant with their reins.”
Even more astoundingly, they neglected to interview one, single Haitian migrant as part of the 500-page document. During a press call this week, leaders and experts slammed what immigrant rights advocacy group America’s Voice called a “whitewashed” report. “The actual people that endured this abuse have not been interviewed,” said UndocuBlack Network Executive Director Patrice Lawrence. “Instead, these individuals, in mass, were deported.”
“The self-serving investigation from CBP illustrates white supremacy, centuries of exploitation, and multiple failures of the U.S. immigration system,” said Guerline Jozef, Co-Founder and Executive Director of the Haitian Bridge Alliance. She noted that numerous witnesses were made available to be interviewed, including Mirard Joseph, the migrant from the infamous photograph. “The agency chose not to interview any Haitians who witnessed abuse from CBP officers,” she continued. “This investigation was not about truth or justice.”
“The report was woefully inadequate, failed to interview any Haitian witnesses, and has so far failed to yield any concrete changes to policy or practices,” America’s Voice said. “The incident is the subject of continued litigation, which hopefully will bring accountability and justice to the matter.” While CBP Commissioner Chris Magnus admitted in a statement that there “were failures to make good decisions at multiple levels of the organization,” and that agents “engaged in unprofessional or dangerous behavior,” just four agents were referred for possible discipline at the time of the report’s publishing. Possible is the key word here, because abusive agents have been referred for discipline in the past, only to have their punishment reduced by the department.
“We stand undeterred with and on behalf of Black and other immigrants in search of safety and protection, and we invite you to join us as we continue to combat the white supremacy, anti-Blackness, and systematic racism that always seeks to intimidate, hurt, and demonize Black people,” Jozef continued during the call. “We will not stop demanding justice and accountability from the Biden-Harris administration and everyone involved in what happened in Del Rio. Immigration is a Black issue.”
Speakers pointed to xenophobic policies that have also targeted Black and Latino migrants, including Greg Abbott’s Operation Lone Star scheme. That racist operation has targeted Black and Latino migrants for detention, and has illegally jailed many without any formal charges at all, in violation of state law.
“The governor created the program to earn political points by targeting and terrorizing immigrant communities, and real people, especially Black immigrants, are suffering and paying the price, like we witnessed in Del Rio,” said Nicole Morgan, Associate Attorney, RAICES. “People seek asylum because their lives, and the lives of their children depend on it,” she continued. “Restoring a fair asylum process will help keep people safe and families together. That’s what we should be focusing on.”
Sen. Cory Booker and Rep. Cori Bush in February led 100 congressional Democrats, including Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, in urging the Biden administration to address anti-Blackness within the U.S. immigration system, including lengthier detention times, excessive bonds compared to non-Black immigrants, and the violent mistreatment at Del Rio. One immediate step that the Biden administration can announce today to begin addressing these injustices is the firing of abusive agents from Del Rio, and the return of any deported migrants and witnesses from this incident in order to carry out a truly meaningful investigation.
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