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Demonstrators protesting the deportation and treatment of Haitian migrants on the outskirts of Texas took to the streets outside the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services Miami field office Wednesday, blocking parts of Northwest Seventh Avenue near Little River Drive.
More than 100 people turned out to protest the deportations at the U.S.-Mexico border and demand the Biden administration accommodate Haitians seeking refuge in the U.S. after July’s assassination of President Jovenel Moïse and August’s 7.2 magnitude earthquake that killed more than 2,000 people.
Karine Calixte, 38, and her two-year-old daughter Acephie held a Haitian flag as a group of demonstrators gathered on the street before them. The protesters, many of whom held signs with phrases like “Stop deportations now” and “Treat people same,” chanted “Joe Biden nou fache. Joe Biden le nou fache nou pa jwe,” which roughly translates to “Joe Biden we’re angry. Joe Biden when we’re angry we don’t play.”
A Haitian immigrant herself, Calixte brought Acephie to the protest to show her daughter the power of demonstrating.
“God forbid, things like this happen when she gets to be older,” said Calixte, who held her daughter in one arm, the Haitian flag draped around them both. “She [will] know that she needs to stand up.”
The 11 a.m. event was organized by advocacy group Family Action Network Movement. The invitation called Miamians to protest “the illegal expulsions of Haitian refugees and grave human rights abuses in Del Rio, Texas.”
FANM had reached out to 20 other organizations to attend as well, including the Circle of Brotherhood and Miami Workers Center.
Protestors have blocked the north lane of NW 7th Ave pic.twitter.com/AvG11kLIH2
— isaiah (@stclaudeii) September 22, 2021
Marleine Bastien, FANM’s executive director, was protesting the deportations in Washington, D.C., this week and took a red-eye flight to make it to Wednesday’s protest.
“This is really unspeakable and unacceptable,” she said. “The Black Haitian refugees are being singled out because of their race.”
Wednesday’s demonstration was an attempt to show a unified front when it comes to addressing the current border crisis, Bastien said.
Several elected officials as well as a few prospective challengers were in attendance Wednesday, calling for the federal government to do better by Haitian refugees.
“Why can’t we be afforded the same treatment as the Afghans and the Cubans and everyone else?” asked Miami Gardens Councilman Linda Julien. As the first Haitian American elected to office in Miami Gardens, this issue was personal for Julien. Her mother traveled to America by boat to give her a better life, she said.
“We’re tired,” she said through tears.
The demonstration called attention to the thousands of Haitian migrants who took refuge under a bridge in Texas and also highlighted a shocking image of a mounted, white border patrol agent seemingly whipping a Black migrant with horse reins that reverberated through U.S. media. White House press secretary Jen Psaki said Wednesday that individuals involved in the incident have been placed on administrative leave while an investigation is completed. She called the behavior of the officers “brutal and inappropriate.”
“As it relates to those photos and that horrific video, we’re not going to stand for that kind of inhumane treatment and obviously we want this investigation to be completed rapidly,” she said.
In May, Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas announced an 18-month extension of Temporary Protected Status for Haitians already living in the U.S. Under TPS, foreign nationals are allowed to temporarily live and work in the United States if U.S. authorities determine that conditions in their country of origin are too dangerous to return.
But in recent weeks the Biden administration has continued to resist calls from Haitian advocates in South Florida and congressional Democrats to stop the deportations of Haitians from the border. The Department of Homeland Security has instead upped the number of deportation flights after thousands of Haitian asylum seekers began crossing the U.S.-Mexico border and presenting themselves to immigration authorities in the last week.
Mayorkas announced that deportation flights have increased to “at least one to three flights per day” with more expected later in the week.
On Wednesday afternoon, the members of the Congressional Committee on Oversight and Reform demanded a briefing and answers from immigration officials on the treatment of migrants.
The members also asked that U.S. Customs and Border Protection stop deporting migrants to Haiti “at a time when the country is still reeling from multiple crises, including the assassination of Haiti’s president this July and an earthquake last month.”
“In the words of the late Chairman Elijah E. Cummings, ‘We’re better than this.’ We expect CBP to take immediate action to ensure that all migrants are treated humanely and with respect,” the members wrote in a statement.
About an hour after the protest in Miami began, demonstrators had moved from one of the two northbound lanes that run parallel to the immigration office to block off the entire roadway. Miami-Dade County police briefly blocked a portion of Northwest Seventh Avenue, a move that resembled the Miami protests to end Cuba’s decades-old dictatorship that occurred just two months ago. The similarity was not lost on the Circle of Brotherhood’s Ijamym Gray.
Gray said, however, that unity made the biggest difference between the two protests. While some of the Cuban demonstrations attracted thousands, Wednesday’s had no more than 200 people. To have more Black people without ties to Haiti would’ve made a huge difference, he explained.
“It’s not just about Haitians,” Gray said. “It’s about Black Americans.”
Francois Alexandre, a commission candidate for City of Miami’s District 5, also called for solidarity with non-Caribbean Black Americans.
“What we’ve seen here is a problem in the international system in terms of disrespect for Black folks globally and we cannot accept that,” Alexandre said. “As Haitians and Americans inside the United States, we should stand up not only for a rally but anywhere just like we did for George Floyd. This is a Black lives matter issue and that’s how we need to treat it.”
McClatchy DC reporters Alex Daugherty, Francesca Chambers and Bryan Lowry contributed to this report.