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A year after Del Rio, activists call for an end to Title 42

Published: Tuesday, September 20, 2022 - 6:08pm
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Activists held a demonstration outside the White House this week calling for an end to pandemic-era restrictions at the border. The event marked a year since images of Border Patrol agents chasing, grabbing and yelling at Haitian migrants emerged from Del Rio, Texas. 

Migrants were approached by Border Patrol agents on horseback while in the Rio Grande after crossing into Mexico for food and supplies. 

Several thousand mostly-Haitians had gathered there hoping to ask for asylum in the U.S. Days later, the majority were sent back to Mexico, or Haiti, under the pandemic-era protocol Title 42. Speaking outside the White House this week, Daniel Foote, former U.S. special envoy to Haiti, said the protocol was tantamount to refoulement. 

"Refoulement, which is when a country returns an asylum seekers without due process is what we have been doing on the U.S. border," he said. 

Foote resigned last year and cited the Biden administration’s handling of Del Rio as a catalyst. The incident led to a federal investigation into agent conduct and a class action suit brought by aid groups and migrants who were there. Nicole Phillips with the advocacy group Haitian Bridge Alliance is a lawyer on the suit.

"The U.S. government knew well in advance that a large quantity of Haitians were making their way through Panama and southern Mexico and towards the U.S.-Mexico border and that they would be seeking asylum at the U.S.-Mexico border. No preparation was made," she said. 

The Biden administration has moved to dismiss the suit. Phillips says the court is expected to decide if it can move forward in the next few months. She says the legal challenge also aims to ensure another Del Rio doesn't happen in the future, and calls for an end to Title 42.

"But also is about making sure that the U.S. never does that again," she said. "That immigration policy isn’t about deterring Haitians from coming and mistreating them in hopes that that will deter them from coming, but instead welcoming asylum seekers, as we do Ukrainians, given particularly, the events that are happening in Haiti right now."

Activists say over the last year, more than 20,000 Haitians have been removed from the U.S., mostly under Title 42.