Hyde Park-Kenwood's members of Congress and Illinois Attorney General Kwame Raoul, who lives in the neighborhood and is the son of Haitian immigrants, are decrying the treatment of thousands of Haitian refugees on the southern United States border.
The Associated Press reports that as many as 14,000 Haitians had camped along the Rio Grande between Ciudad Acuña, in the Mexican state of Coahuila, and Del Rio, Texas. Many had stayed for years in Latin America before heading north; U.S. Customs and Border Protection officers created an outrage when they were photographed on horseback attempting to control migrants' movements across the river.
Under COVID-19 pandemic-related powers, 2,000 of the migrants have been sent back to Haiti on flights by the Department of Homeland Security instead of being able to seek asylum, while department secretary Alejandro Mayorkas said 12,400 more have been allowed to enter the country to seek asylum or for other reasons.
U.S. Special Envoy to Haiti Daniel Foote resigned in protest over the situation. In the past two years, Haiti has suffered two major earthquakes and the assassination of its president, Jovenel Moïse.
Rep. Bobby Rush (D-1st) announced he has joined the House Haiti Caucus as a result of the incident and urged President Joe Biden to update the eligibility cutoff date for Haitian migrants to receive Temporary Protected Status to Aug. 14, when the second earthquake hit the country, or later.
He also urged the president to reinstate the Haitian Family Reunification Parole Program, and scale up COVID-19 vaccine distribution in the Caribbean nation.
“The United States has a responsibility to our Haitian neighbors to not turn our backs in this time of immense need, as they face the devastating aftermath of a 7.2 magnitude earthquake and political unrest," Rush said in a statement.
"It is glaringly obvious that sending thousands of migrants who are seeking help at our doorstep back to Haiti at this time is not only dangerous — it is morally reprehensible. Some migrants facing looming deportation have not lived in Haiti in years. Many do not have homes to return to. As my late colleague Elijah Cummings would often say, ‘we are better than this.’”
Rep. Robin Kelly (D-2nd), in a statement, said she was outraged by the "unacceptable" scene and said Mayorkas should update Congress about the situation.
"The people of Haiti are experiencing serious hardship politically and economically following the assassination of their president, the COVID-19 crisis and natural disasters," she said in a statement. "As Haitians increasingly flee these crises and other tumultuous situations in South and Central America, we must treat refugees with dignity while upholding the laws of the United States.”
Raoul led 16 other state attorneys general in a letter to Biden and Mayorkas in which they expressed "deep concern" about the administration's continuation of the summary deportation policy.
"Haitians deserve the same due process as all others attempting to immigrate or flee to the United States," they wrote. "The circumstances of every Haitian seeking refuge here should be assessed on a case-by-case basis. This individualized evaluation should factor in both the time a person has been away from Haiti and the circumstances he or she would likely face if compelled to return to a nation in the midst of dire humanitarian and governance crises."
They point out that the president can let in refugees at his discretion during a humanitarian crisis separate from the nation's annual refugee cap, and they suggest that the administration could invoke a Haiti-specific measure to allow the migrants to remain in the U.S. legally while conditions in Haiti are too hazardous for them to safely return.