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The World

American Horror Story

The deportation of Haitian migrants is yet another inhumane response to the consequences of a crisis that the U.S. helped create.

Haitian migrants being rounded up by US government agents on horseback in Texas.
Al Jazeera

So many things that are wrong about American immigration policy are encapsulated in this picture:

As the photo indicates, the Biden administration is forcibly removing thousands of Haitian migrants from Del Rio, a Texas town on the U.S.-Mexico border, and sending them back to Haiti in what the Associated Press said “could be one of America’s swiftest, large-scale expulsions of migrants or refugees in decades.” And it is doing so using tried-and-true methods of American brutality. From the El Paso Times:

 A mounted U.S. Border Patrol agent shouted commands in a tense encounter with Haitian migrants wading through the Rio Grande near Del Rio, Texas.

As the Haitians tried to climb onto the U.S. side of the river Sunday afternoon, the agent shouted: “Let’s go! Get out now! Back to Mexico!”

The agent swung his whip menacingly, charging his horse toward the men in the river who were trying to return to an encampment under the international bridge in Del Rio after buying food and water in Ciudad Acuña, Mexico.

One migrant fell as he tried to dodge, others shielded their heads with their hands.

Government agents on horseback using whips to round up Black people fleeing disaster—you could be forgiven for thinking that this was an event from 1861 rather than 2021, but some horrors stick around, and, as the Biden administration is proving, some things—such as treating migrants like invasive lepers rather than human beings—transcend partisan boundaries. As the El Paso Times noted, Biden is using a Trump-era creation to carry out this mass purge:

444U.S. Border Patrol Chief Raul L. Ortiz said the agency is increasing the capacity of Title 42 flights, “to expel individuals to Haiti and other countries of origin.”

While international law protects the right to seek asylum, public health ordinance Title 42, adopted by former President Donald Trump during the COVID-19 pandemic and continued by President Joe Biden, allows for rapid expulsions without the opportunity to seek asylum.

“Migrants attempting or considering making the journey to our border should know that we are still enforcing Title 42 order,” Chief Ortiz said.

Democrats and Republicans uniting to flout international law—what could be more American than that?

But we have to go even deeper than that, because, beyond the particulars of the current situation at the border, what we are witnessing is one of the most venerable American traditions of them all: a violent, inhumane response to the consequences of a crisis that the United States helped to create in the first place.

There is a lot of discussion about how Haiti is a “failed state”; a Washington Post article about the current migration crisis declared that “some describe it as the Somalia of the Caribbean”—in other words, just another African-style basket case, another Black country plagued by tragedy, violence, and bad luck.

There is rather less discussion about the role the U.S. played in getting Haiti to the place it currently finds itself in. Some things—like the earthquakes and other natural disasters that have caused so much misery in Haiti—are the fault of nature, not human beings. But Haiti is not in such dire straits purely through Biblical misfortune, and a great many of its problems have been either exacerbated or directly caused by American intervention and interference. Just in the past 100 years, the United States brutally occupied Haiti for decades; propped up a string of corrupt and bloodthirsty dictators; twice helped engineer the ouster of democratically elected president Jean-Bertrand Aristide; spearheaded a second occupation which led to a devastating cholera outbreak; flooded the country with corrupt “aid” money; and repeatedly meddled in Haiti’s elections in order to install American-friendly puppets. This included the late Jovenel Moise, a tawdry crook whose illegitimate claim to his office was firmly supported by the United States until his recent assassination.

That is the country Haitians have been fleeing—one that, in large part, has been created by the United States. The reporting on the recent expulsions is careful to note that many of the migrants left Haiti after the 2010 earthquake, rather than in response to recent events, but the 2010 version of Haiti was no less impacted by American decisions than the 2021 version. And the current catastrophe in Haiti—the one that the Biden administration is forcibly pushing thousands of migrants back into—would not have taken place if the United States had not helped keep a gangster in power in defiance of any kind of basic democracy.

What we have, then, is the same thing we have in the Middle East, or Latin America, or a long line of places around the world: the U.S. fuels violence and chaos in other countries, and then violently tries to suppress the inevitable upheaval caused by that chaos when it reaches American shores. America causes the problem and then terrorizes the victims it creates. It backs death squads and tyrants and endorses staggering corruption and then lectures people about getting their house in order when they try to escape the consequences of U.S. choices. It makes it impossible for people to live in their own countries and then literally sends whip-cracking agents on horseback to keep them in line rather than take any kind of responsibility. What a country.