To be clear, the images we saw of Haitians being whipped at the border, graphic to be sure, are merely a visual representation of US policy towards immigrants of color, with the greatest disdain, brutality and inhumanity being reserved for Haitian immigrants and generally any and all immigrants of African descent.
The declaration that all men are created equal, endowed with an inalienable right to Life, Liberty and the pursuit of happiness”, written by a slave owner are about as lacking in self-awareness as the statement by the White House that, “this is not who we are”
The White House attempt to calm the democratic party base of a coalition of Blacks, Latinos and progressives with the statement rings hollow for many obvious reasons, not least of all because in fact, American policy toward Haiti and Haitians whether as immigrants or on their island has always been a policy of disdain backed by an ideology of White Supremacy, dating back to 1804 when Haiti declared independence from France.
The White House additionally stated that they would take away the horses from immigration enforcement at the border, because of course, the horses were the problem. It couldn’t possibly have been oh, the images of White Men in cowboy hats whipping poor exhausted hungry black men, women and children in images that could fit in any slave movie set in the 1800s, or that the deportation flights of Haitians continued to take place that very same day even as the disturbing images were circulating.
DHS Secretary Mayorkas came to the White House press briefing to help explain away the administration’s actions. For the Black community and anyone who might have expected a more compassionate response and outlook on immigration from the Biden administration, it may have come as a surprise that the Secretary’s response was seemingly exclusively focused on assuaging the concerns of the anti-immigrant crowd. Mayorkas said nothing to suggest that there would be any change in policy from the previous administration, but further went on to tout the admin’s efforts to expel the groups that had been allowed in. Half the migrants were forced back into Mexico with no apparent attempt at trying to determine which ones were entitled to exemptions to allow them to stay. The admin is using the Trump admin Executive Order, (EO) Title 42, which Democrats up and down the campaign trail in 2020 had decried as not only bogus and inhumane but also racist. Even the Trump admin had applied exemptions for people with serious illness and others entitled to it. It is unclear if those tests were applied to the migrants who were forced back into Mexico. The likelier scenario is that because most would have feared interaction with border agents, many vulnerable migrants would have fallen through the cracks.
The use of the Trump era EO is most sinister, especially given that vaccines and tests are now widely available, and offering these would have been easier, not to mention cheaper, and of course more compassionate than immediately deporting the migrants. Mayorkas reported that in fact the admin has ramped up deportation flights to Haiti, adding flights to ensure the prompt return of migrants back to Haiti, a country that is rife with all manner of problems including a recent earthquake, violence and of course, the pandemic. One can’t help wondering what the difference is between the recently welcomed Afghan refugees, the children in cages in 2020, or the migrants escaping gang violence in Central and South America.
Is the admin taking its black and brown voters for granted? It remains to be seen whether the base of Black and Brown think so and perhaps the midterms will give us an idea. The governor’s election in VA might be the canary in the coal mine. From voting rights, police reform to immigration, it simply doesn’t seem that the administration has gone to bat on issues that are very specific to the Black community with quite the vigor that many in his base would have wanted to see.
In fact, the last time there was specific legislation targeting inequality and advancing the cause of justice was the civil rights and voting rights acts of 1964 and 1965. That was a helluva long tieME ago!