Cory Booker, Cori Bush lead effort calling on Biden to address anti-Blackness in immigration system

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This is a Getty Image showing Haitian deportation protests
MIAMI, FLORIDA - SEPTEMBER 22: Loverson Tiodatte (C) and Santcha Etienne (R) join other protesters in front of a USCIS Building to denounce the expulsion of Haitian refugees from Del Rio, Texas on September 22, 2021 in Miami, Florida. PHOTO: courtesy of Daily Kos
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Gabe Ortiz, Daily Kos

Sen. Cory Booker and Rep. Cori Bush led 100 congressional Democrats, including Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, in an historic call urging President Joe Biden’s administration to address the mistreatment of Black immigrants and asylum-seekers, both at the southern border and within the U.S. immigration system.

They point to the well-documented “disparate and often inhumane treatment” of Black people by U.S. officials, including lengthier detention times, excessive bonds compared to non-Black immigrants, and, more recently, the violent mistreatment at Del Rio. While the Department of Homeland Security pledged a swift probe of the latter, its watchdog later declined to investigate.

Lawmakers are now appealing straight to the president for action. “It is essential that we recommit ourselves to reversing anti-Black policies, including by adopting a human-rights centered approach to supporting immigrants and people seeking asylum in the United States,” the letter states.

For the second time this month, lawmakers also urge the termination of the public health order that for nearly two years has used the pandemic as an excuse to quickly deport asylum-seekers in violation of their rights. This has included thousands of Haitians in recent months.

“On September 23rd, 2021, U.S. special envoy to Haiti, Daniel Foote, resigned, citing the ‘inhumane and counterproductive decision to deport thousands of Haiti refugees’ from the border,” lawmakers said. “This was a clarion call for all of us who are frustrated with our current policy in Haiti.” The Biden administration is also deporting families back to Haiti even as it’s warning Americans it’s too dangerous to travel there, and urging any Americans in Haiti to leave immediately.

“To that end, we are concerned that the administration’s use of the Title 42 authority is depriving legitimate asylum seekers the opportunity to pursue their claims, contrary to our obligations under international and domestic law,” they continue. In a Feb. 14 letter, nearly three dozen House Democrats also urged an end to Title 42, noting that “despite rolling back many of our restrictions related to the coronavirus, asylum seekers at our southern border are still being treated as unique public health threats, subjected to immediate expulsion even though they have a legal right to have their asylum claims heard.”

“Black migrants are also likely to remain in detention longer than other migrants and pay significantly higher bonds for release,” lawmakers continued, further noting that African migrants are thrown into solitary confinement—which is torture—at higher rates. “In 2020, horrifying reports emerged that migrants from Cameroon and the Democratic Republic of Congo were not given a fair opportunity to seek asylum and were forcibly coerced into signing voluntary departure orders after protesting inhumane detention conditions.” A civil right complaint last year said Immigration and Customs Enforcement also subjected African asylum-seekers to degrading, full-body restraints.

These disturbing reports have only continued. A leading human rights organization recently found that dozens of Cameroonian asylum-seekers deported from 2019 to January 2021 faced abuses ranging from arbitrary arrest, to extortion, to rape following their arrival. Affected individuals and advocates have since renewed calls for the Biden administration to issue deportation relief for roughly 40,000 Cameroonian immigrants already in the U.S.

“It is time to undo the United States’ draconian immigration policies, particularly policies introduced under the Trump administration, such as the use of Title 42, that circumvent our humanitarian obligations,” lawmakers continue. “In addition to stopping removals to regions such as Haiti that face serious insecurity, we also urge you to take steps to address the systemic challenges Black migrants face to receiving equal treatment.”

Despite former administration officialsformer Centers for Disease Control and Prevention experts, and whistleblowers all attesting that Title 42 has no valid public health justification, the Biden administration earlier this month said it would continue enforcing the order. “At this point, the Biden administration has enforced Title 42 for over a year, longer than the Trump administration,” CBS News reported.

Amnesty International USA told The New York Times that the investigation, if authorized, would be the first of its kind. Lawmakers said that “as a starting point, we recommend the Department of Homeland Security, in concert with the Department of Justice’s Executive Office for Immigration Review (EOIR), conduct a wholistic review of the disparate treatment of Black migrants throughout our immigration system, make available to the public the results of this review and take steps to remedy disparities at each step of the immigration enforcement process.”