By Lauren Victoria Burke
After over 12,000 Haitian migrants gathered at the Mexican border, shocking footage of them being herded like cattle, whipped with horse lariats and treated in a way unlike any other immigrants entering the U.S. in recent memory became public.
U.S. Border Control Agents on horseback were widely criticized as were the policies behind their actions after video first broadcast by Al Jazeera went viral for all the wrong reasons.
“If we were to close our eyes and this was occurring under the Trump administration, what would we do? The inhumane treatment of the Haitian refugees seeking help is utterly sickening,” wrote NAACP President Derrick Johnson on September 21.
“Our nation claims to be better than this… SHOW IT!” Johnson demanded the day before.
“Whips and horses? That’s what we do? To people that are vulnerable? Do we see any Haitians with guns and knives? No! We see them with the clothes on their back and the babies in their arms,” said Patrice Lawrence, co-Director of the UndocuBlack Network, during a September 20 appearance on Roland Martin Unfiltered. UndocuBlack Network assists currently and formerly undocumented Black people to find community and access to resources.
“This is cruelty. It’s evil… What I saw today was slave patrol — it is shameful and absolutely disgraceful,” she added.
Members of the Congressional Black Caucus gathered at a reception on the night of September 20 at the National Observatory to celebrate the CBC’s 50th anniversary. Though the reception took place at the Vice President’s residence, there wasn’t a lengthy discussion on the crisis at the border. But members are asking for an investigation into what they saw on video.
America has accepted other refugees from around the world from Syria, Afghanistan and Central America. Policy regarding Haiti appears to be different.
The scenes were reminiscent of illustrations from the early 1800s during slavery in the U.S. when runaway slaves were tracked down by bounty hunters and overseers on horseback. When the footage was shown widely on social media the outrage was quick to follow.
Haiti has recently experienced an earthquake and a presidential assassination. Many are asking why Haitians at the Mexican border aren’t eligible for political asylum.
On September 21, the Vice President responded to the controversy.
“What I saw depicting and treating human beings the way they were was horrible. I fully support what is happening right now which is a thorough investigation into what is going on here — but human beings should never be treated that way,” said Vice President Harris during a trip to Maryland.
“These are human rights abuses, plain and simple. Cruel, inhumane, and a violation of domestic and international law,” Rep. Ilan Omar (D-Minn.) tweeted. “There needs to be a course correction and the issuance of a clear directive on how to humanely process asylum seekers at our border.”
Though Mayorkas appeared before a Senate committee last week, he is likely to have to answer many more questions in the weeks to come.
Lauren Victoria Burke is an independent journalist and the host of the podcast BURKEFILE. She is a political analyst who appears regularly on #RolandMartinUnfiltered. She may be contacted at LBurke007@gmail.com and on twitter at @LVBurke