The National Health Law Program condemns the horrific violence seen at the U.S.-Mexico border last week when Border Patrol agents chased and assaulted Black Haitian immigrants legally seeking safety and asylum in the U.S.
The violent treatment of Haitian refugees reflects an immigration system rooted in racism and xenophobia. The violence last week unfortunately reflects the United States’ long history of exploiting immigrants who have come here seeking refuge and opportunity, especially Black, Indigenous, Latinx, and Asian America, Pacific Islander, and other immigrants of color. Border Patrol agents’ violence against Black Haitan immigrants who sought refuge in the United States is only the most recent example of the historical trend NHeLP previously documented in our Equity Stance:
From the beginning, our immigration laws have relied on explicit racial definitions and have sought to exclude or disadvantage immigrants of color and other non-dominant groups. For example, the Naturalization Act of 1790 limited immigration to “free Whites;” the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882 banned immigration to the U.S. from China; the Immigration Act of 1924 sharply limited immigration by Jewish immigrants from Southern and Eastern Europe and all individuals from most Asian countries; and the “Bracero Program” granted temporary visas to immigrant laborers from Mexico and Guam in the 1940s to 1960s but offered no path to residency or citizenship. The long history of racialized animus against immigrants of color has resulted in today’s reality: immigrant communities are significantly less likely to have access to health care, resulting in worse health outcomes for immigrants and their descendants.
Haitian immigrants face the intersecting oppression of anti-Blackness and xenophobia. Black immigrants already face higher rates of deportation than their counterparts of other races, and at the same time, are often more subject to police surveillance and violence.
NHeLP continues to decry the United States’ racist immigration and policing regimes, and we urge President Biden to ensure safe passage for Haitian asylum-seekers. We reaffirm that Black Lives Matter, including the lives of Black Haitian immigrants. We pledge to continue to work to realize our commitment to advancing health equity for Haitan asylum-seekers, and all immigrants and Black communities across the country.