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16 Oct 2021 22:25
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  •   Home > News > International

    Anger rises in US as Haitians deported, border guards seen whipping at migrants

    Anger rises in the US over crackdown on migrants as hundreds of Haitians are deported and footage shows border guards on horseback whipping at migrants attempting to cross the Rio Grande.

    Anger has been rising in the United States against the Biden administration's crackdown on migrants after hundreds of Haitians were deported and footage showed border guards on horseback whipping at migrants attempting to cross the Rio Grande.

    The US started flying out migrants this week from a Texas border town that has seen an influx in recent weeks, with 360 people rapidly expelled from the US over the past three days.

    At the Port-au-Prince airport on Tuesday, deported Haitians were seen rushing back towards the plane they had arrived on, while others threw shoes at the jet.

    These scenes came after US border agents on horseback on Sunday used whip-like reins to block Haitian migrants wading across the Rio Grande with food and supplies from Mexico to a squalid encampment with nearly 10,000 people on the Texas side.

    On Tuesday, DHS Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas condemned the actions of the agents on horseback, saying the incident was being investigated and those involved were assigned administrative duties.

    The images triggered anguish among some current US officials who said they once had high hopes that US President Joe Biden would quickly reverse the hard-line immigration policies of his predecessor Donald Trump and, as he promised, "restore humanity and American values" to the immigration system.

    Immigration advocates condemned Mr Biden's refusal to repeal Mr Trump's most sweeping policy, known as Title 42, that allows border agents to quickly expel most migrants to Mexico or their home countries without a chance to apply for asylum.

    Mr Biden extended the March 2020 policy put in place by the US Centers for Disease Control, arguing it remained necessary as a public health measure amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

    "These deterrence (and) expulsion measures deny due process to asylum seekers and place them in harm's way. That is a human rights violation," said Michael Knowles, president of AFGE Local 1924, the union that represents the asylum officers at US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS).

    "Our members are outraged by the mistreatment of migrants and the refusal of our border authorities to allow them to have their asylum claims heard."

    Asylum officers interview migrants and refugees to determine if they need protection in the United States, while Border Patrol or Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents oversee border security and detention.

    'What do they believe in if this is acceptable?'

    Mr Biden did exempt unaccompanied children from Title 42 expulsions early in his presidency.

    But he has included families, even after a federal judge on Thursday ordered the government to stop expelling them. The administration is appealing the order.

    A two-week stay on the order was "to allow the government time to organize itself," said Lee Gelernt, the lead attorney from the American Civil Liberties Union suing the administration over the policy, "not to round up as many people as possible to expel them, and certainly not to expel desperate Haitian asylum seekers."

    The Trump administration argued many asylum claims were false and issued a flurry of policies to limit protections.

    One of the USCIS officials who spoke on condition of anonymity because they are not authorised to speak to the press said it was understood it would take time to roll back the Trump-era measures, but that some are now losing patience in the face of slow reform.

    "It's appalling, disgusting," the official said.

    "What do they believe in, if this is acceptable?"

    Biden criticised for increasing migrant numbers

    Mr Biden also faced criticism from the right, with Republicans saying he encouraged illegal migration by moving too fast to reverse other Trump-era immigration reforms.

    In recent months, the number of crossings at the US-Mexico border increased to 20-year highs, with close to 200,000 encounters in August alone, according to US Customs and Border Protection data, though that is counting individuals who may have crossed multiple times.

    Early in his presidency, Mr Biden took several executive actions cheered by immigration groups — such as ending Mr Trump's travel bans on several Muslim-majority countries and scrapping a policy that sent asylum seekers to wait in Mexico for US court hearings. 

    In a letter to Congress, retired Border Patrol Chief Rodney Scott said Mr Biden's reversals created a crisis at the border and constituted "a national security threat".

    Earlier this year, Mr Biden also extended deportation relief to around 150,000 Haitians already living in the United States with Temporary Protected Status, though the benefits do not apply to anyone who arrived after July 29.

    Mr Biden acknowledged conditions were dire in the Caribbean country that has long struggled with violence and recently suffered a presidential assassination and a major earthquake.


    © 2021 ABC Australian Broadcasting Corporation. All rights reserved

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