Opinion: Haitian refugees yearning to breathe free – CT Post

A U.S. Border Patrol agent on horseback uses the reins to try and stop a Haitian migrant from entering an encampment on the banks of the Rio Grande in Texas last month.
As we all watched a few weeks ago the images of Haitian refugees as they endured human rights violations by patrol officers at the Texas border, I and many of my fellow Haitian-American brothers and sisters felt helpless, angry and grief-stricken. While many Haitians throughout the Diaspora would love to return to our beautiful “Ayiti,”, once called “la Perle des Antilles,” we know that under current conditions, that is nearly impossible.
This reality is underscored by the overwhelming number of Haitians who have fled Haiti over the recent months, years and decades, yearning to breathe free from the oppression of a government overrun by corruption, gang violence, and a country battling economic instability, the assassination of its president and natural disasters.
With this new wave of Haitian refugees fleeing from Haiti, Haitian-Americans have been watching intently the response of the Biden administration. As a result, there has been a collective outcry by the Haitian-American community on the administration’s mishandling of this crisis and tone-deaf, bordering on racist response. To many, these swift deportations and mistreatment of black Haitian refugees call to mind the days of the deportations of the “Haitian boat people” en masse in the 1970s and 1980s while the U.S. government (both Democratic and Republican administrations) welcomed and extended open arms to Cubans for decades.
For many in my community, this scenario felt all too familiar to what some believed was the betrayal of the Clinton administration with promises of U.S. aid that only materialized into policies that had devastating effects on Haiti and the Haitian people. These Haitian-Americans have asked me, why do Haitian-Americans continue to support a Democratic Party that doesn’t support us?
Without equivocating, I must make it clear that I am disappointed with President Biden’s refusal to act by executive order to reverse Title 42. In deporting nearly 10,000 Haitians in less than two weeks, the Biden administration has used Trump’s Title 42 public health law to justify his actions, citing public health concerns amid the pandemic. I am disgusted by his administration’s doubling down to enforce this Trump-era draconian law without affording real due process to these Haitian refugees to make asylum claims.
With Congress’ failure to pass meaningful immigration legislation, there is no line or path to legal entry. Why hasn’t the administration grabbed the bull by the horns and acted through executive orders to address these pressing issues? Why leave people, human lives in limbo waiting for immigration reform which hasn’t happened in several decades? Did Haitian contributions to this country count for nothing?
What contributions, you ask? It is indisputable that the Haitian Revolution contributed greatly to doubling the land size, wealth, power, and influence of the fledgling U.S. republic. Napoleon was forced to sell the French territories now known as the Louisiana Purchase to President Thomas Jefferson in 1803 because he lost so much fighting the former enslaved people in the Haitian Revolution. And let’s not forget the Haitian soldiers who helped American colonists at the Siege of Savannah in 1779.
Haitian-Americans are proud of their ancestors’ contributions just as the Afghans are proud to have helped Americans in the nearly 20-year war in Afghanistan. But is seems America has forgotten Haitians. And at times, both political parties may seem indistinguishable when it comes to Haitian policy.
However, they are very different in their platform and policies and to say that one is “indistinguishable from the other,” we are engaging in false equivalencies. Given that the Democratic Party platform is more progressive than the GOP and is concerned about expanding rather than restricting civil rights, I am calling out President Biden to not just talk the talk, but to walk the walk.
Mr. President, do the right thing to preserve our U.S. Constitution and afford these Haitian refugees due process and equal protection of the laws. I know that it will not be an easy task to undo Trump’s policies, while balancing a political tightrope to appease both the progressive and moderate wings of your party, but it must be done. Our fragile democracy depends on it. Those yearning to breathe free depend on you, Mr. President.
Reine Boyer, of Bridgeport, is an attorney with the Fairfield County Law Group, LLC.


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