American guards “whipping” black refugees triggers outrage 

September 22, 2021 - 11:35

TEHRAN- The White House has been mired in controversy after footage circulated online showing U.S. Border Patrol agents on horseback whipping black Haitian asylum seekers attempting to cross the American-Mexico border

Advocacy groups and social media users strongly condemned the images of fleeing black men being chased by white officers on horseback with ropes as a stark reminder of the injustices suffered by Black people in the United States both historically and till this day. 

Democratic-Republican, Ilhan Omar, of Minnesota, says “these are human rights abuses, plain and simple. Cruel, inhumane, and a violation of domestic and international law”. She added, "This needs a course correction and the issuance of a clear directive on how to humanely process asylums seekers at our border."

Democratic Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York echoed those sentiments saying "this is a stain on our country. It doesn't matter if a Democrat or Republican is President, our immigration system is designed for cruelty towards and dehumanization of immigrants, Immigration should not be a crime, and its criminalization is a relatively recent invention."

Media witnesses saw mounted officers wearing cowboy hats blocking the paths of migrants, and one officer unfurling a cord resembling a lariat, which he swung near a migrant's face. A video also showing a border guard apparently threatening migrants with the cords was shared on social media. 

Reports say one mounted agent yelled at the asylum seekers “Get out now! Back to Mexico!” The agent then swung his rope at the asylum seekers, as one man fell and others tried to shield themselves.

White House spokeswoman Jen Psaki admitted to reporters "I don't think anyone seeing that footage would think it was acceptable or appropriate". She also says "I don't have the full context. I can't imagine what context would make that appropriate”. 

The U.S. Department of Homeland Security Secretary, Alejandro Mayorkas, claims the long reins are used by mounted officials to "ensure control of the horse." "But we are going to investigate the facts," he added during a news conference. 

The whipping incident was just one desperate moment in a few hours of such scenes along the Rio Grande over the past day or two. In another incident, the same officer grabbed the back of the shirt of a migrant trying to run up the bank with bags of food.

The mostly Haitian refugees have in recent days been crossing back and forth between Ciudad Acuna in Mexico and the sprawling camp across the border in Del Rio to buy food and water that was in short supply on the U.S. side. 

The refugees say their squalid encampment under a bridge on the U.S. side of the river was short of supplies. U.S. officials over the last few days had let asylum seekers cross back and forth at a shallow point of the river. On Sunday, however, they told the asylum seekers they will not be allowed back to the U.S. side if they ventured into Mexico.

More than 12,000 migrants, identified by officials as mostly Haitian, have been gathering under the bridge in recent days, awaiting their asylum processing. Instead, U.S. officials began removing several thousand people from the camp over the weekend, including some who were later seen arriving back in Haiti.

The Biden administration is relying on very contested Trump-era policy as it goes ahead with deporting thousands of Haitian refugees along the U.S.-Mexico border, without processing their asylum claims. 

Much to the dismay of refugee advocates, the Department of Homeland Security is invoking a public health law, citing possible covid cases, to quickly take Haitians into custody and fly them back to their troubled homeland. 

In essence, the White House is violating international law by denying them an opportunity to make a claim to stay in the U.S. to seek asylum. Experts say covid tests can be conducted at the border. 

That has left Human rights advocates also enraged at the Biden administration for resuming repatriation flights to Haiti, despite the country's ongoing political, economic, and environmental disasters. Haiti, already racked by instability, is struggling to recover from an earthquake in August and the assassination of President Jovenel Moise in July has left many fearing for their lives.

Refugee and asylum rights groups have urging U.S. Customs and Border Protection to “Stop this Discrimination”, slapping the Biden White House for choosing to shut the door on Haitians seeking protection. 

The camp under the bridge spanning the Rio Grande has become the latest flashpoint for U.S. authorities seeking to stop asylum-seekers fleeing violence and political unrest in their home countries. 

By Monday, hundreds of asylum seekers had returned to the Mexico side amid uncertainty about whether they would be deported back to Haiti on flights organized by U.S. authorities. 

The first flights carrying the asylum seekers landed in Port-au-Prince on Sunday from the Del Rio camp arrived in Haiti on Sunday, with at least three more due to make the journey on Monday, according to flight-tracking website Flightaware. 

"They can't send us back to Haiti because everyone knows what Haiti is like right now," says Haitian refugee Wildly Jeanmary, on the Mexican side of the river after crossing it. Drenched, he cited July's presidential assassination as a reason not to return with his wife and their 2-year-old daughter to the poorest country in the Americas. 

Haiti was also hit by a major earthquake last month. "The government of the United States has no conscience," said Haitian asylum seeker Nerlin Clerge, who also stood near the riverbank and had traveled to the camp with his wife and their two young sons.

The Department of Homeland Security says it expects between one to three daily repatriation flights back to Haiti, adding that a surge of 600 border agents and other personnel have been deployed to the area. "If you come to the United States illegally, you will be returned. Your journey will not succeed" the department declared.

Horace Campbell, professor of African American Studies and Political Science at the Maxwell School at Syracuse University called the expulsion of Haitians "inhumane".

He added that "what the United States government is doing is unspeakable given the crisis in Haiti …. as one person said, it amounts to something being criminal”.

Campbell also vehemently disagreed with the deportation of Haitian migrants saying “this is just perpetuating white racist stigma against the people of Haiti. And these people did not come from Haiti”.

Meanwhile, Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador says he had called on his U.S. counterpart Joe Biden to act immediately to invest in Central America to stem the flow of migrants.

Lopez Obrador spoke after the United States said that it would ramp up deportation flights for thousands of migrants. The Mexican leader said he had appealed to Biden for swift action to tackle the root causes of a wave of migration by people fleeing their homeland. 

"As we have mentioned on other occasions, the migratory phenomenon requires a completely new treatment," says the letter read by Lopez Obrador at his daily news conference. He stressed "the need to act immediately in Guatemala, Honduras, and El Salvador" by investing in economic support programs for farmers and young apprentices.

If the United States invests in Central America "we would be assisting 330,000 people in less than six months who would see this joint action as a hope," he said. Lopez Obrador has repeatedly proposed expanding one of his domestic welfare programs into Central America in the aim of generating 1.2 million jobs in the region.

Analysts say the U.S. could have easily solved the refugee influx problem by investing just a tiny fraction of the trillions of dollars it has spent in military adventurism overseas; to Central America instead.

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