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September 22, 2021

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BIDEN FACES BIG BORDER BACKLASH. For more than a week, many in the national media ignored the crisis under the bridge in Del Rio, Texas, where as many as 15,000 illegal border crossers, most of them originally from Haiti, have gathered in squalid conditions, seeking admission into the United States. But now, the crisis has taken on a racial character, and coverage is increasing.

The president will meet with black leaders today after anger erupted among Democrats about photos and video of Border Patrol agents on horseback chasing migrants away from the encampment. False reports circulated that the agents "whipped" the migrants. No one was injured, but the pictures still seemed to suggest rough treatment of the migrants, all of whom were black. White House spokeswoman Jen Psaki called the images "horrific" and "horrible to watch.”

TOPSHOT-US-POLITICS-IMMIGRATION-TEXAS
TOPSHOT - A United States Border Patrol agent on horseback tries to stop a Haitian migrant from entering an encampment on the banks of the Rio Grande near the Acuna Del Rio International Bridge in Del Rio, Texas on September 19, 2021. - (Photo by PAUL RATJE / AFP) (Photo by PAUL RATJE/AFP via Getty Images) PAUL RATJE/AFP via Getty Images

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The bigger problem, of course, is that President Joe Biden's policies have attracted 15,000 illegal crossers who entered the U.S. with the hope that the new administration would allow them to stay. Biden's opening of the border has been a powerful incentive for illegal crossers all along the U.S.-Mexico border, not just in the tiny town of Del Rio, Texas.

Now, it appears the administration will allow thousands from the group of Haitians to stay in the U.S., just as it has allowed hundreds of thousands of other illegal crossers to stay. The Associated Press reports that the Department of Homeland Security has been moving large groups of illegal crossers to other areas of Texas and Arizona, where they can be processed quickly and released. "Haitians have been freed on a 'very, very large scale' in recent days, according to one U.S. official who put the figure in the thousands," the Associated Press reports.

At the same time, officials tell the Washington Post they are going to "nearly double" deportation flights to Haiti. The U.S. plans to fly up to seven flights daily to Port-au-Prince and Cap-Haitien. The deportees are apparently single males who are being ejected on the basis of Title 42, the authority of the U.S. government to control the spread of COVID-19. (It is not clear how families, who are being allowed to stay, are a lower threat to spread the virus.)

The stepped-up deportations, if they actually happen, are likely to inflame the racial elements of the story. For example, the Washington Post reports that "deportees on Immigration and Customs Enforcement flights are regularly shackled with handcuffs and sometimes leg restraints during the boarding and takeoff progress." Even though that is routine procedure, it will heighten racial tensions around the Haiti deportations. "They chained me like a slave," one deportee told the Washington Post.

Meanwhile, there is a more basic problem. Even though the illegal crossers are originally from Haiti, most did not come to the U.S. from Haiti. They left Haiti years ago, driven out by disasters and other generally awful conditions in that country. They went to other countries, particularly Chile and Brazil, where they made new lives and often had children who became Chilean and Brazilian citizens. Only in recent weeks did they make the decision to head north through Mexico to the U.S.

From the Associated Press: "Marcelo Ebrard, Mexico's foreign relations secretary, said ... most of the Haitians already had refugee status in Chile or Brazil and weren't seeking it in Mexico. 'What they are asking for is to be allowed to pass freely through Mexico to the United States,' Ebrard said."

Which raises the question: Why would people who had left their country and received refugee recognition in another country have a right to consideration as refugees in the U.S.? The point was to escape the problems in Haiti, not to move to the U.S. On the other hand, rather than returning them to Haiti, where they have not lived for years and which is in terrible shape, why shouldn't the U.S. push for their return to Chile and Brazil?

Now, though, look for the Biden administration to stop returning anybody anywhere. On Wednesday morning, Politico reported that "a coalition of more than 38 civil rights and immigrant advocacy leaders sent the White House a letter Tuesday evening calling on Biden to immediately stop expulsions of Haitians." The leaders, whose organizations include the ACLU, Human Rights Watch, and the Leadership Coalition on Civil and Human Rights, told the White House that, "Deportation flights to Haiti must stop, and those seeking safety at our borders must be granted their legally assured chance to seek asylum." How likely is the Biden administration to be able to resist that kind of pressure?

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