A Haitian father carries his children across the Rio Grande into Del Rio, Texas on September 23, 2021, from Ciudad Acuna, Mexico. Mexican immigration officials had launched an operation in a small migrant camp on the Mexican side of the river and many families, fearing deportation, surged across the border to take their chances on the U.S. side. (Photo by John Moore/Getty Images)
Nevada’s attorney general and Democrats in the state’s congressional delegation have joined the chorus of criticism directed at the White House from President Joe Biden’s own party over treatment of Haitian migrants at the U.S. southern border.
On Thursday, Nevada Attorney General Aaron Ford joined a coalition of 17 attorneys general in sending a letter to Biden and Department of Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas criticizing the handling of Haitian refugees seeking humanitarian aid along the Texas border.
“I’m disappointed in the horrible and inhumane images that I’ve seen at the border,” said Ford in a statement, referring to images that went viral this week of Border Patrol agents on horseback using aggressive tactics. “The Biden administration must ensure that refugees are treated with compassion and care and must be respectful of the rights held by refugees and asylum seekers.”
Haiti is facing a political and humanitarian crisis after the assassination of the country’s president and the lingering affects of a devastating earthquake and tropical storm.
In the letter, the coalition urged Biden to “reconsider relying” on a health code rule that effectively authorizes deportation of people from a foreign country who may have a communicable disease. The rule was initiated by the Trump administration to expel a large number of people seeking asylum without due process.
The attorneys general argued “unprecedented political upheaval” justifies the need to admit Haitian refugees separately from the annual cap on immigrants allowed into the U.S. The coalition also called on the Biden Administration to admit Haitian refugees on a case-by-case basis rather than continuing mass expulsions.
“Individuals seeking asylum or other humanitarian assistance in our country deserve our respect and compassion,” the AGs wrote, “and they should not be treated differently from other migrants based on their country of origin. Haitians deserve the same due process as all others attempting to immigrate or flee to the United States.”
Democrats in Nevada’s congressional delegation have also criticized the treatment of Haitian refugees at the border, calling for a full investigation and humane treatment for the refugees.
“In recent days, footage from the Southern border has shown shocking and unacceptable treatment of Haitian migrants,” said Rep. Steven Horsford in a statement. “Our nation has an obligation to treat all migrants with dignity and respect, regardless of where they came from or how they arrived.”
Mayorkas has promised a swift investigation into the treatment of Haitian migrants following calls from Congressional Black Caucus Chairwoman Joyce Beatty to launch a full investigation into the recent actions of U.S. Customs and Border Protection.
In a statement, a spokesperson for Rep. Susie Lee said she will be reviewing the investigation’s results as soon as they are available, adding that the congresswoman was “deeply concerned by the images showing inhumane treatment of Haitian migrants at the border.”
“The photos of Border Patrol Agents mistreating migrants along the border are very disturbing. The U.S. should be helping those seeking asylum from countries in chaos,” said Rep. Dina Titus in a statement. “We must hold those responsible accountable and maintain humane standards of immigration.”
Nevada’s two Democratic Senators echoed calls to investigate the situation at the border.
“The reported mistreatment of Haitian migrants at the southern border is unacceptable and needs to be thoroughly investigated by the Department of Homeland Security,” said Sen. Jacky Rosen in a statement. “We need a secure border and we also need a humane process for accepting refugees seeking asylum, and these incidents reinforce the clear need for Congress to stop talking and start delivering on comprehensive immigration reform.”
Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto called on Homeland Security to “ensure this behavior never happens again” calling reports on the treatment of Haitian immigrants “inhumane and unacceptable.”
The Nevada State Democratic Party also released a statement criticizing the “violent tactics” used against the refugees.
“As a community, we are disturbed by the images and stories coming from Haitian migrants at the US-Mexico border,” said Jerry Castro-Cayetano, a Nevada Democratic Black Caucus member and a member of Nevada’s Afro-Caribbean community. “We demand an end to the mistreatment that these migrants are facing and expect the Biden Administration to provide the basic services, treatment and care for those who will likely be scarred by the terror inflicted upon them by members of Customs and Border Patrol.”
The office of Nevada’s only Republican in Congress, Rep. Mark Amodei, referred a request for comment to Amodei’s periodical newsletter which was sent out Friday morning. “This is not only a national security crisis, but also a health and humanitarian crisis that must be addressed,” Amodei says in his newsletter.
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