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Immigration Law

Beyond the Bridge: Documented Human Rights Abuses and Civil Rights Violations Against Haitian Migrants in the Del Rio, Texas Encampment

RFK Human Rights, Haitian Bridge Alliance, March 2022

"From approximately September 9th to September 25th, 2021, more than 15,000 Black Haitian migrants, desperate to save their lives and the lives of their families, waited under the Del Rio International Bridge. Under triple digit Texas heat, thousands of asylum seekers sought protection in the United States from persecution and torture. Instead, they were met with shocking brutality. This report presents first-hand testimony of 43 Haitian and other survivors who were trapped by U.S. immigration officials in a makeshift encampment and denied access to sufficient food, water, and medical care. Many were also subjected to physical violence and intimidation. The Del Rio crisis is a moment of national reckoning. It surfaced images reminiscent of 19th century slave patrols: Black people herded into open fields encircled by fences, chased by horsebacked patrol officers holding reins high overhead, and shackled while awaiting forceful transfer by law enforcement. Centuries later, those images continue to horrify. But this time, the international community watched Black families crossing breaks in the Rio Grande river only to be forced on deportation flights to Haiti, a country where many faced imminent risk of violence and death. The U.S. government’s actions at Del Rio were part of a “comprehensive strategy” to expel thousands of Haitian asylum seekers, announced by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) on September 18th. That strategy deprived thousands of people of the opportunity to apply for asylum and other humanitarian protection, in violation of international and U.S. law. Haitian Bridge Alliance v. Biden, a pending federal class action lawsuit, asserts that the strategy was intentionally designed to send a message of deterrence to other Black immigrants: the United States will not protect you and will deport you back to danger."