Earlier this year, the Biden administration redesignated Haiti for Temporary Protected Status (TPS), which grants deportation immunity to immigrants already in the United States who are unable to return to their home country due to natural disaster or extreme political upheaval. In a Federal Register notice published on August 3rd, 2021, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) stated “Haiti is grappling with a deteriorating political crisis, violence, and a staggering increase in human rights abuses.” An already delicate Haitian body politic was further destabilized by the assassination of former Haitian President Jovenel Moïse, causing a political power struggle and an exacerbation of gang violence. Two weeks later, a massive earthquake ravaged the island, evoking the same sort devastation as the 2010 earthquake created, from which the country has still not fully recovered.
On September 18th, 2021, DHS made the announcement of a new ‘Strategy to Address Increase in Migrants in Del Rio’. The Strategy was in response to a swell of primarily Haitian migrants arriving at the U.S. border at Del Rio, Texas, and ultimately resulted in the swift expulsion of thousands of Haitians either back across the border into Mexico, or on repatriation flights to Haiti, without having received their lawful right to an asylum screening. Images surfaced of Customs and Border Protection (CBP) agents on horseback assaulting Haitian migrants with whips and cords, causing outrage among both the immigration advocacy community and the general American public. However, the abrupt turnaround by the Biden administration from the redesignation of TPS, to the aggressive pushback of Haitian asylum seekers at the border, is indicative of a long history of mistreatment of Haitian immigrants by the United States that precedes this most recent action.
The following Policy Snapshot outlines a series of key immigration policies implemented over the last four decades that have inordinately targeted Haitians, beginning with a comparison of how Cubans and Haitians fleeing authoritarian rule were treated in the late 1970s-early 1980s, and moving through to the discriminatory usage of Title 42 today.