Haitian asylum seekers sue Biden administration over encampment conditions News
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Haitian asylum seekers sue Biden administration over encampment conditions

The Haitian Bridge Alliance (HBA) Monday filed a class action lawsuit against the Biden administration over alleged US officials’ abuse of asylum-seeking Haitians.

According to the lawsuit, the Department of Homeland Security violated thousands of Haitian asylum seekers’ rights. The suit claimed the plaintiffs fled danger and instability in Haiti, seeking asylum in the US. Upon arriving, they joined at least 15,000 Haitian asylum seekers in a makeshift US Customs and Border Protection encampment in Del Rio, Texas. Plaintiffs claimed they suffered from hunger and dehydration due to encampment conditions.

Plaintiffs alleged they “sweltered in triple-digit temperatures” by day and “slept on the ground” at night. One father, Mirard Joseph, ventured to Mexico to buy food and water for his wife and child. When he attempted to return, a “mounted officer shouted at Mirard, lashed at him with split reins, grabbed his neck, and held his collar.” About two days later, Mirard and his family were expelled to Haiti. Mirard is now hiding in Haiti, and his wife and daughter traveled to Chile seeking medical treatment for an illness allegedly developed in the encampment.

The HBA, a community-based organization, claims the US has a history of anti-Haitian immigration policies and alleges that the US “brutally deployed” Title 42 Process against Haitians. The Trump administration introduced Title 42 Process in early 2020 as an emergency regulation under US health law. Section 265 of Title 42 provides that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Director may deny entry to individuals when “there is serious danger of the introduction of [a communicable] disease into the United States.” Customs officers are authorized to implement CDC immigration orders.

In October, UN human rights experts condemned the US mass expulsions policy of Haitian migrants and refugees. The experts warned that collective expulsions violate international law. A month prior, US special envoy to Haiti Daniel Foote resigned in protest over the deportation policy. Foote expressed desire “not be associated with the United States inhumane, counterproductive decision to deport thousands of Haitian refugees” to Haiti.

UN agencies also voiced concerns over premature deportations. UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) spokesperson Marta Hurtado expressed concern over disturbing images of Haitians being rounded up and deported. Hurtado noted on behalf of OHCHR that Haitians should be afforded individual assessments to determine their asylum status prior to deportation. She also shared fears that “some of these people have not received that protection that they needed.”

In the pending lawsuit, the HBA seeks injunctive and declaratory relief. The HBA further aims “to ensure accountability and an end to the Biden Administration’s harmful, discriminatory, and unlawful policies.”