United States: Torture and Other Abuse of Haitian Asylum Seekers Rooted in Anti-Black Racism

US authorities have subjected Haitian asylum seekers to arbitrary detention and discriminatory and humiliating mistreatment that amounts to racially-based torture, Amnesty International said today in the new report, ‘They Didn’t Treat Us Like People’: Race- and Migration-Related Torture and Other Abuse of Haitians Seeking Safety in the United States.

These human rights abuses, along with the mass deportations under Title 42, are the latest chapter in a long history of detention, exclusion, and the practice of trying to dissuade Haitians from seeking safety. in the United States, rooted in systemic anti-Black discrimination.

“A year ago, the Biden administration condemned the shameful scenes of Mounted Border Patrol agents violently dispersing Haitian asylum seekers in Del Rio, Texas. Despite this, US authorities continued to restrict their right to seek international protection at the US-Mexico border,” said Erika Guevara-Rosas, Americas Director at Amnesty International.

“They also continued to evoke the evils of slavery by shackling and handcuffing black Haitians aboard deportation flights, inflicting on them further pain and mental suffering that amounts to torture under international human rights law. human rights. Our research provides ample evidence that systemic racism is embedded in the U.S. immigration system, as described by Haitian asylum seekers interviewed for this report.

The report shows that successive U.S. administrations attempted to dissuade Haitians from seeking asylum in the United States by enforcing various policies designed to intercept, detain and deport them, beginning in the 1970s and continuing through Title 42.

A year ago, the Biden administration condemned the shameful scenes of Mounted Border Patrol agents violently dispersing Haitian asylum seekers in Del Rio, Texas. Despite this, US authorities continued to restrict their right to seek international protection at the US-Mexico border.

Erika Guevara-Rosas, Americas director at Amnesty International

Nicole Phillips, legal director of the Haitian Bridge Alliance, an organization that has been at the forefront of bringing to light the mistreatment of Haitians by U.S. authorities, said, “Last September, the world watched with horror photos of a Border Patrol agent on horseback using his reins. to whip Mirard Joseph, one of approximately 15,000 Haitians seeking protection in Del Rio, Texas. As appalling as the incident was, it was just the tip of the iceberg of decades of mistreatment to deter Haitians from seeking safety in the United States. We hope the recommendations in this report will spark a dialogue among U.S. officials to dismantle the race-based discrimination and torture that Haitians and other black migrants often face in the U.S. immigration system.

The 24 people interviewed by Amnesty International in Haiti for this report appear to have been deported under Title 42 between September 2021 and January 2022. None of them had the opportunity to undergo an individual assessment by security officials. asylum (fear-based examinations) before being sent back to Haiti. According to the testimonies collected, American officials have even detained babies between the ages of 9 and 14 days and, in several cases, separated them from their parents. These are violations of international law. Haitians interviewed also said they did not have access to interpreters, legal representation, or information about where they were detained or the reasons for their detention, which constitutes arbitrary detention.

Moreover, none of the Haitians interviewed by Amnesty International said they had been tested for Covid-19 or had been vaccinated at any time during their detention or before their deportation. Many also noted that they weren’t given masks or weren’t able to physically distance themselves from others, undermining claims that Title 42 evictions are designed to prevent the spread of Covid. -19.

The mistreatment Haitians suffered in U.S. detention centers — which included a lack of access to enough food, health care, information, interpreters, and lawyers — had a cumulative impact on people interviewed for this report, as they had already suffered a series of human injuries. rights abuses, including anti-black racism, throughout their journey in the United States.

Finally, the 24 Haitians interviewed by Amnesty International said they were flown back to Haiti in handcuffs and shackles – treatment that caused them severe psychological pain and suffering due to its association with slavery and criminality. According to Amnesty International’s assessment, based on the testimonies collected, this amounts to torture based on their race and immigration status under international human rights law, which absolutely prohibits torture and other ill-treatment, and obliges states to protect people from all acts of torture, including those based on specific vulnerabilities such as race, migration status and nationality.

A History of Anti-Black Racial Discrimination

The history of the enslavement of people of African descent and contemporary forms of systemic anti-Black racism provide an essential backdrop to this research. As the evidence highlighted in the report suggests, practices of mistreatment of Haitians are widespread and have occurred historically at different times and in different places, indicating long-term and systemic racial discrimination within the system. immigration in order to punish the Haitian people and deter them from seeking asylum in the United States.

We hope that the recommendations in this report will spark a dialogue among U.S. officials to dismantle the racial discrimination and torture that Haitians and other black migrants often face in the U.S. immigration system.

Nicole Phillips, Legal Director at Haitian Bridge Alliance

Amnesty International calls on all states to address and dismantle systemic racial discrimination, and to recognize that racism is rooted in structures and practices that emerged during colonialism and slavery. U.S. authorities must take steps to reform all institutions, laws, policies, and practices that reinforce harmful stereotypes based on race and nationality. Title 42 is a clear example of such a policy. Not only does it illegally circumvent laws that protect people from deportation to evil, but it also reinforces harmful and racist stereotypes that lead to human rights abuses.

Although Amnesty International has reviewed and summarized strong evidence that anti-Black racism is embedded in the US immigration system, US authorities do not appear to be proactively collecting data on racial bias or discrimination, such as the require international human rights standards.

Reiterating calls made by more than 100 members of Congress to the Biden administration in February 2022, Amnesty International calls on the US government to commit to reversing anti-Black policies and conducting a comprehensive review of the disparate treatment of black people seeking protection in the US immigration system.

For more information or to arrange an interview, please contact:

Duncan Tucker (Amnesty International Americas): [email protected]

Gabby Arias (Amnesty International USA): [email protected]