Social media was rocked recently by horrific images of Customs and Border Patrol agents on horseback attacking Haitian refugees in Del Rio, Texas. The Department of Homeland Security, in the hours following the spread of the images, announced that it will launch an investigation into the conduct of CBP agents, as well as enact a ban on their use of horses(!). Biden Press Secretary Jen Psaki was quick to claim that “this is not who the Biden-Harris administration is.”
But isn’t it? Biden’s made big promises of immigration reform, but the facts speak for themselves. The administration has begun its mass deportation flights back to Haiti. Outlets like the AFP have documented the squalid conditions Haitian refugees endure once they arrive. Refugees are forced to camp in the open air, without adequate shelter, plumbing, or access to food and clean water.
This is to say nothing of the fact that other groups at the border are still being held in cramped, inhospitable cages, as families are separated with little hope of reunion. Citing COVID, Biden has eagerly invoked Title 42, a Trump-era policy which has allowed the current administration to turn away hundreds of thousands of immigrants for “public health reasons” before they reach U.S. soil.
Haitians are fleeing to the U.S. after a series of catastrophic events back home. High-magnitude earthquakes have destroyed local infrastructure. And gang violence has intensified in the wake of former president Jovenel Moïse’s recent assassination. Haiti is also wracked with economic inequality, with 7 million of its population living below the poverty line of $2.14 per day. And, as an island nation reliant on agriculture, Haiti is on the frontlines of an accelerating climate crisis.
These conditions are caused and/or worsened by global capitalism’s relentless pursuit of profits; this is the very same system that daily pulverizes workers and the oppressed in the United States, in many of the same ways.
Refugees are human beings, not “public health risks.” The U.S. working class must reject these racist ideas and instead take up refugees’ struggle! We need to follow the example of those who protested Trump’s Muslim ban by gathering at major airports en masse. Or the example of workers at furniture company Wayfair, who, upon learning that Wayfair was providing furniture to the border camps, staged a walkout in Boston’s Copley Square in the summer of 2019. A movement like this, involving both native born and immigrant workers, could demand immediate, full citizenship for all foreign-born workers living in the U.S., an immediate end to all deportations and detention of migrants, and demands around healthcare, housing, and wages that would benefit the entire American working class.