Amy Goodman and Denis Moynihan
Images of US Border Patrol agents on horseback whipping Haitian asylum seekers as they crossed the Rio Grande to Texas shocked the world this week. After 15,000 refugees arrived sheltering under a bridge in Del Rio, Texas, President Biden responded with an aggressive deportation campaign. His administration used President Donald Trump’s anti-immigrant “Title 42” public health deportation policy to return planes full of people to Haiti, despite political turmoil following the assassination of President Jovenel Moose in July. and a devastating earthquake last month.
“What are we doing here?” California Democratic Congresswoman Maxine Waters asked Tuesday at a press conference in Washington, DC, surrounded by members of the Congressional Black Caucus. âWhat we have witnessed takes us back hundreds of years. What we witnessed was worse than … slavery, cowboys with their reins, whipping blacks, Haitians, into the water where they jostle and fall as all they try to do is to escape violence in their country.
Waters was not the only one to criticize. On Wednesday morning, US Special Envoy for Haiti Daniel Foote resigned his post in a letter obtained by PBS:
“I will not be associated with the inhuman and counterproductive decision of the United States to deport thousands of Haitian refugees and illegal immigrants to Haiti, a country where American officials are confined in secure complexes due to the danger that represent the armed gangs controlling daily life. Foote wrote. âOur political approach to Haiti remains deeply flawed and my recommendations have been ignored and rejected. “
Foote’s scathing letter continued: âThe people of Haiti, mired in poverty, held hostage to terror, kidnappings, robberies and massacres by armed and suffering gangs under a corrupt government with gang alliances, cannot do it all. simply not endure the forced injection of thousands of half-subsidies lacking food, shelter and money without additional and preventable human tragedyâ¦ The collapsed state is unable to provide basic security or services, and more refugees will fuel despair and crime. The influx of migrants to our borders will only increase as we add to Haiti’s unacceptable misery.
There were also reports of Haitian migrants who had been shackled at the waist and feet by their American captors, and that the rate of deportation flights was increasing to seven a day.
Christopher Columbus made landfall on the island he named “Hispaniola” in 1492 and, on behalf of Spain, subjected the indigenous Taino population to brutal genocide while extracting as much wealth as possible. Spain imported enslaved Africans to replace the natives they killed. In 1697, France took control of the western half of the island, forming what would become Haiti, while the Spanish colony known as Santo Domingo, which would later become the Dominican Republic, remained on the eastern half. .
Violence and oppression continued, as Haiti became the most profitable colony in France. With around 85% of the Haitian population enslaved, torture, whipping and murder were used as regular instruments of control. Revolutions outside the country did not go unnoticed by Haitians, with the successful rebellion against the British in all 13 colonies to form the United States, followed soon after by the French Revolution in 1789.
In fact, Haitians fought during the American Revolution. Britain occupied Savannah, Georgia during the War of Independence, and in 1779 George Washington’s rebel Continental Army besieged the city. France sent ships and troops to help, including between 500 and 900 soldiers of color recruited in Haiti. The Saint-Domingue Volunteer Hunters, as they were called, were mainly Haitian freedoms of African descent. They suffered significant losses. A monument to these Haitian soldiers was unveiled in Savannah in 2007.
The enslaved Haitians rose up against their French oppressors in 1791, and, fighting against what was then considered the greatest army on the planet, under Napoleon, emerged victorious, founding Haiti as the first black republic in 1804. The United States refused to recognize the new nation of Haiti, fearing that the successful slave uprising would inspire similar revolts in the United States.
In 1825, Haiti was forced to pay reparations to France, which hampered the Haitian economy for over 100 years. Since the 1950s, dictatorships, coups d’etat, assassinations, political interference and occupation by the United States, as well as a series of earthquakes, hurricanes and droughts have taken their toll. ‘Haiti the poorest nation in the Western Hemisphere.
Considering the extent and duration of Haiti’s suffering, it is surprising that only 15,000 refugees gathered under this bridge in Del Rio, Texas. The Biden administration has a chance to change direction, put away the whips and chains Haitians have endured for more than 500 years, and keep the promise made to the poor congregated masses enshrined in this imposing lighthouse, a gift from the France, the Statue of Liberty.
Amy Goodman is the host of Democracy Now! She is co-author, with Denis Moynihan and David Goodman, of the New York Times bestseller “Democracy Now!” : 20 Years Covering the Movements Changing America â.