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Rights report alleges discrimination and abuses of Haitian asylum seekers in the U.S.

Published: Friday, September 23, 2022 - 4:50pm

A new report from the advocacy group Amnesty International alleges Haitians faced discrimination and abuse while in the U.S. seeking asylum.

The report's authors interviewed two dozen Haitians sent back to Haiti between September 2021 and January of this year under Title 42 — the pandemic-era protocol that restricts the legal right to asylum at the border.

Last fall, Border Patrol agents on horseback were photographed chasing, grabbing and yelling at Haitian migrants gathered at the Texas border seeking asylum. Many were returned to Haiti under Title 42. Advocates have said more than 20,000 Haitians have been sent back to Mexico or Haiti while President Joe Biden has been in office.

The report alleges U.S. authorities subjected Haitians to treatment akin to torture — including detaining children as young as nine, and in some cases separated them from their parents. It says Haitians did not have regular access to interpreters or lawyers, and didn't have the opportunity to speak to an asylum officer about whether they feared of returning to Haiti and why.

In other cases, the report says Haitians were detained arbitrarily by immigration officers and during return flights to Haiti, migrants were shackled and handcuffed. 

"As evidence highlighted in the report suggests, practices of ill-treatment towards Haitians are widespread and have occurred historically at different times and in different places, pointing to long-term and systemic racial discrimination within the immigration system with the aim of punishing Haitian people and deterring them from seeking asylum in the United States," the report read. "Title 42 is a clear example of such a policy. Not only does it unlawfully bypass laws that protect people from being deported to harm, but it also reinforces harmful and racist stereotypes that lead to human rights violations.