Community leaders and local elected officials held a press conference on Sept. 22 outside the Nassau County Legislature building to protest the “inhumane treatment” of Haitian migrants at the southern border of the United States.
“Please grant these people – children, mothers, fathers – the fairness that they deserve by stopping all deportations back to Haiti,” said Nassau County Legislator Carrie Solages at the protest, addressing the Biden administration and agencies of the federal government. Thousands of Haitian migrants have arrived at the U.S.-Mexico border in recent weeks seeking refuge from the island nation, which has faced multiple crises throughout the year.
Solages’ office sent a letter to President Biden and the Department of Homeland Security demanding a stop to the deportation of migrant back to Haiti, which is suffering from a series of recent crises, including the 7.2-magnitude earthquake that struck the island nation in August and killed over 2,000 people as well as the assassination in July of former president Jovenel Moise that created uncertainty about government leadership.
Indeed, four United Nations agencies this week deemed the on-the-ground situation in Haiti “dire” and “not conducive to forced returns.”
At the press conference, local leaders called for an end to “inhumane treatment” of migrants at the southern border. “We sent this letter to the president asking and demanding fair treatment for Haitian migrants,” Solages said before gesturing to photos of U.S. Border Patrol agents on horseback, whipping Haitian migrants.
“This must stop. This cruel, inhumane treatment must stop,” Solages said. “I’m asking all my fellow brothers and sisters, Haitian or not, to please stand up and do something about this.” Solages called for a congressional investigation into the treatment of Haitian migrants at the southern border by border agents.
“To see those images of fathers holding their babies up, I don’t know how you’re a human being if that doesn’t affect you,” Solages said. Solages urged community members to call their representatives in Congress and urge them to end the deportations of migrants back to Haiti due to unstable nature of the country.
New York State Assemblywoman Michaelle Solages, the first member of the state legislature of Haitian descent, stressed that U.S. immigration policy and messaging must change.
“We need to say clearly that we are the land, the nation of immigrants,” Solages said. “And not just for immigrants who come from a certain region… all immigrants, all migrants, all asylum seekers, all refugees – all people.
Solages emphasized that Congress must act, along with President Biden, to implement immigration reform and crate a pathway to citizenship for Haitian migrants. “People of color are now the immigrants, and they want to deny the golden doors to us,” Solages said, “but we will not let that happen.”
The letter also called out United States foreign policy for “racism” and hypocrisy, pointing to other populations, such as Cuban-Americans, who, Leg. Solages said, have been granted a pathway to citizen by the U.S. “Because they’re black.”
I’m just disgusted by this blatant racism that we see,” Assemb. Solages said of the treatment of Haitian migrants at the border. “And I need to call it out. I did it under President Trump, and now I’ll do it under President Biden,” she added. “We cannot stay silent.”
Pastor Edy Bichotte of Bethany French Baptist Church in Elmont appealed to the longstanding ties between Haiti and the United States, highlighting the fact that soldiers from the island nation joined forces with American revolutionaries during the 1770s in an effort to push British forces out of Savannah, Georgia.
“Small nation,” Bichotte said. “But a great one. Small nation, great heart,” he added.
Today, he said, Haitian migrants are seeking a better life in the United States, a country Haitians have long supported. “They’re looking for a better life… they’re not here to bother no one,” Bichotte said.
Mimi Pierre-Johnson, president of the Elmont Cultural Center and longtime local activist and advocate for people of Haitian descent, said said she has spoken to people who have been deported back to Haiti and that they are seeking a new life in the United States.
“One man said yesterday said, ‘If I go back to Haiti, all I’m going to do is wake up each day and say, oh, I’m still alive,’” Pierre-Johnson recalled. “That’s the future of our young people,” she said, noting that proper education for children is one of many resources that is sparse in Haiti.
She said that mothers are fleeing to the United States to search for jobs that can provide their children with an education. Sometimes, she added, they are deported back to Haiti and travel to Brazil and other countries, where they are subjected to low wages and prostitution.
“My heart goes out to these mothers, children and men. On behalf of the Haitian Diaspora we will not let you down,” Solages wrote in a Facebook post on Sept. 23.