US Plans to Arrest Migrants at Southern Border as It Welcomes Ukrainian Refugees

As the U.S. says it will welcome up to 100,000 Ukrainian refugees fleeing the Russian invasion, immigration officials say they’re preparing for a surge of migrants at the U.S.-Mexico border as it ends the Trump-era pandemic restriction Title 42 in response to humanitarian outcry. We talk with Guerline Jozef, of the Haitian Bridge Alliance, about how Haitian refugees are treated. Maria Hinojosa, an award-winning journalist, discusses the Haitians she met during a migrant caravan. Jozef says President Biden’s pledge to welcome Ukrainian refugees, while necessary, is a painful display of the double standard faced by Haitian immigrants and other people of color seeking humanitarian relief in the United States. “Why is it that when it comes to people of color, Black and Brown people, we must continue to push and beg to validate our humanity?” asks Jozef. Hinojosa has been reporting on migration for her podcast series “The Moving Border” and says the Biden administration is “appeasing” anti-immigrant forces in the U.S. by continuing rejections, deportations and detentions at the southern border. “What we are seeing is … white supremacy in the context of refugees and desperate people,” says Hinojosa.

This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be final.

AMY GOODMAN: This is Democracy Now!, democracynow.org, The War and Peace Report. I’m Amy Goodman, with Juan González.

Immigration officials say they’re preparing to detain a surge of people traveling to the U.S.-Mexico border to seek humanitarian relief. Today’s announcement was made in response to pressure from human right advocates. CDC Trump-era border restriction Title 42, which allowed authorities to deport asylum seekers indefinitely without reviewing their claims or due process, is expected to be lifted. Six months ago, the world was stunned by images of mounted Border Patrol agents chasing and whipping Haitian asylum seekers at the U.S. Mexico border in Texas. They were held back under Title 42, which was a pretext for the pandemic.

A new report The Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights and Haitian Bridge Alliance document the full extent the abuses that Haitians suffered while held in a camp near the border, under a bridge in Del Rio. They described being subject to violence, intimidation, racial slurs, and threats, and being denied adequate access to food, water, and medical care.

This comes as the United States just announced it would accept up to 100,000 Ukrainian refugees fleeing Russian invading. Biden was seen embracing a Ukrainian child when he visited the Ukrainian refugees in Poland over the weekend. Guerline Jozef, executive director of the Haitian Bridge Alliance, tweeted this in response: “The amount of pain that comes with seeing this beautiful picture is unbearable. The well-deserved love, kindness, dignity, compassion, protection that is given to this little girl is never afforded to little black Haitian girls at POTUS’s doorsteps. Trump said it, Biden proved it!” Guerline wrote.

Guerline Jozef, an award-winning journalist Maria Hinojosa, now joins us. They’ve both worked closely with Haitian migrants at what Maria calls the “moving border.”

We are happy to have you back. Democracy Now! Guerline Jozef, let’s begin with you and that tweet, the comparison of how Ukrainian refugees are beautifully welcomed around the world, and now in the United States, and what’s happening with Haitians and others on the U.S.-Mexico border trying to come in.

GUERLINE JOZEF: Good morning. Amy, thank you so very much for having us. It was a pleasure to show the reality and contrast between how people feel at borders, whether they are at the U.S.-Mexico or Ukrainian border.

We all witnessed, as it happened, how Black people trying to flee Ukraine were also pushed in and not protected. I want to be clear. We stand 100% with the peoples of Ukraine and we stand 100% behind the president and his administration for welcoming the Ukrainian people. We want to ensure that they are protected. But, what we really want to say is: Why isn’t it that when it is about people of color, Black or Brown people, we have to continue pushing and beg to validate and affirm our humanity?

Amy, I also mentioned that the picture of the president holding the little girl in his arms, smiling, really warmed my heart. At the same time, I couldn’t pass the fact that they are really chasing and whipping and turning away little Black girls and little Black boys at the U.S.-Mexico border. I am calling on us to welcome all people with dignity regardless of their skin color or origin. Because these beautiful children are also of Haitian and Mexican descent and are fleeing harsh conditions in their home countries.

Today we see continued expulsions to Haiti. A country that is in extreme turmoil, political turmoil, I can confirm that there are currently deportations to Haiti. Yesterday, you know, the vice president — the prime minister in Haiti calling for help, because they cannot even control what they are dealing with, still dealing with the assassination of the president, the aftermath of the earthquake, the following storm, climate change, really forcing people to leave home.

So, what we are asking and what we are saying is, for our little Black girls, little Black boys, who are in search of safety, literally fleeing the same conditions that the Ukrainian people are fleeing from home — may not be a war from Russia, but a war within their own country. We ask for the same welcome to be extended to those in search of protection.

As you know, the report contains 43 individuals who describe the horrific cruelty and abuse they saw and were also victims of. Many people have been expelled or deported. Some were even pushed back to Haiti. We saw young men being grabbed by an officer in uniform, who really mistreated and abused them. Today, President Biden has deported close to 21,000 people to Haiti.

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: And I’d like to bring Maria Hinojosa into the conversation. Maria, I wanted to ask you if you could talk about your experiences in reporting on the continuing — now several years of reporting on the problems at the U.S. border, but also this — not only the racial aspect of U.S. policy when it comes to asylum seekers, but there’s also a political aspect. As we know, for instance, during the 1980s, Nicaraguans were welcomed, granted asylum, while Salvadorans and Guatemalans were denied asylum by the United States, because the United States wanted to expose and condemn the Nicaraguan — the Sandinistas at the time. I’m wondering your sense of how this is playing out, both the racial aspects and the political aspects now.

MARIA HINOJOSA: So, Juan, it’s great to be with you, and Amy and Guerline, as well.

Look, Juan, it hasn’t been years that I’ve been covering this. As you, I’ve been covering this for decades. Decades. It has been many decades. And what we are saying — journalists, activists on the ground — is that that narrative is not true. And what we are seeing is, in fact — it’s ugly to say it, but — white supremacy in the context of refugees and desperate people.

Juan, what was it that I saw in December in Mexico, Colombia, and Panama? Juan, you’re right, I have covered this story many times over the years, but I never had the chance of being on a caravan. And when I got to the caravan — you know, the United States, the mainstream media, our colleagues, talk about the caravan as this scary, frightful thing. Donald Trump raised the whole topic of the caravan. How many U.S. officials, human rights officers, have been with a caravan to see the same thing I saw? It is a caravan full of love. It is a caravan that promotes solidarity. It is the place, when you are traveling through Mexico, if you are Black, as increasingly the migrants and refugees are — the caravan is the only place that you will feel safe. These migrants, migrants, and refugees are some of the smartest people to join a caravan. The fact that the United States mainstream media and the government has chosen to portray the caravans as filled with scary, terrible people who are going to force their way onto the border, it’s not true. That’s not what they’re doing. They are exactly the same as the Ukrainian refugees right now. They are desperate and are looking for a country that will accept them.

Now, it was very quick. Last night, I was finally able get in touch Udi, who is Nigerian. I left him a message last night. I said, “Just bring the up to date.” He did finally make it into the United States, but he was held for four months in a detention camp. This is a young man who, when I saw him in the jungle, he was like, “I got this. We’re going to do this. I’m going to” — you know, the message he left me said, “I don’t even want to think about what I’ve been through. It has been so terrible, so horrific.” And the worst part of his travels has been being in the United States in an immigrant detention camp and the disrespect that he had to feel.

And finally, as Guerline was saying, what this government is doing — a government that says that it appreciates refugees, that has a president that will hug a little Ukrainian girl — what they did to the Familia Felix, in our story, was that they lied to them. And the U.S. government Border Patrol and ICEThey were told they would be taken to Miami by a flight attendant. When the plane doors opened, they were lied too. They were sent back to Haiti, a country they haven’t lived in for over a decade.

So, the pleas that we have — you know, people say, “Oh, Maria, you’re so obsessed with migrants and refugees. That’s because you’re an immigrant yourself. You’re so Mexican.” It’s like, no, I’m obsessed with the capacity that this country has for inhumanity, and specifically watching how that inhumanity is being thrust on people who are Black and simply seeking refuge.

AMY GOODMAN: Maria, I’m referring to the fact that you gave voice to people, which is exactly what mainstream media is doing with Ukrainians right now. It is a great example of how refugees should treated. So I was interested in your reports on the series where you met the Felix family from Haiti, as they traveled north with a caravan of migrants. As you mentioned, the Felix family fled Haiti a decade ago following the devastating earthquake that killed 300,000 people. They resettled in Brazil, ’til they were once again forced to flee, this time to the U.S.-Mexico border. This is a clip taken from Latino USA called “The Moving Border: Even Further South,” where the family tells you about their experience crossing through the Darién Gap, a notoriously dangerous, dense jungle that stretches across the Colombian and Panamanian border.

MARIA HINOJOSA: The Felixes’ children tell me they saw dead bodies in the jungle, people who looked like them. They had to go on. They were eventually detained by the Panamanian police and taken back to Colombia. So they had to do the unthinkable: start all over again and cross back into the Darién jungle.

AMY GOODMAN: You received a message from the mother in January asking you to call her. This was more than two months after you had said goodbye to Oaxaca’s Felix family.

MARIA HINOJOSA: Widelene and her family are now in Haiti. Ten years after she escaped the devastation of an earthquake that destroyed everything that she had worked for, after birthing her two youngest children in the Dominican Republic, after living in South America for years, after crossing the Darién jungle twice, she and her family made it to the U.S., but 15 days later, the Biden administration deported them back to Haiti.

AMY GOODMAN: That’s Maria Hinojosa’s report called “The Moving Border.” It is so moving, Maria. It would be great if you could talk about the meaning of these actions. Because as you talk about this caravan of hope and of love, it’s the immigrant rights movement that has forced this action that’s expected to be announced today, ending Title 42, which has used the pandemic as a way to prevent so many immigrants — we certainly haven’t heard this in the case of Ukraine — but coming into the United States, or being detained once they do.

MARIA HINOJOSA: You know, Amy, what I’m hoping, but I have not so much of it — this was a perfect opportunity, in fact, for the Biden administration to completely switch everything up. This is a moment where the Biden administration could say, “We’re changing everything now, because we are going to be committed to what we say we are.” This is a moment where the Biden administration could not only get rid of Title 42, stop MPPReorganize the Border Patrol because we all saw Border Patrol officials riding horses with whips on Blacks. So we can’t be blinded by what we are experiencing. It seems that the Biden administration is more interested appeasing people who are afraid about migrants and refugees as well as Black people. And our job as journalists is to say, “Look at the treatment of Ukrainian refugees. Consider the treatment of Honduran Salvadoran, Guatemalan and Haitian migrants and refugees. And there has to be one way to treat all humanity.”

So I’m feeling quite desperate. Widelene and me are in touch, you know. She’s desperate to get help. She says that now that she’s in Haiti, she’s terrified for her two young girls because it’s so unsafe. This is, Amy, a personal tragedy that has ripped into my heart as a human being. As a journalist, you know, I’m just like, “I’m going to keep at it. I’m not going to stop. And I’m going to demand accountability,” because what we are seeing is not just the suffering of Ukrainian refugees but people on our side of the continent. And they need love, and they need that hug from Joe Biden and Kamala Harris, both of them, to say, “We welcome you. We see you, and we welcome you.” And thank you, Amy and Juan, for recognizing the journalism and for allowing me to get a little emotional, because, hey, if you lose all your emotion, then what good are we as journalists?

AMY GOODMAN: Juan, we aren’t able to hear you. Juan?

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: Sorry. Guerline, I wanted to ask you — this mistreatment not only of Haitians, but you’ve been noticing also of Cameroon migrants who are seeking asylum in the United States, I’m wondering if you could talk about that, as well.

GUERLINE JOZEF: Juan, thank you so much. And thank you so much, Maria, for really bringing the reality of what’s happening.

Considering the ongoing contrast and parallel in the treatment of Black migrants and European immigrants, it is clear that we have been fighting for more than two years to get this right. TPS for Cameroon, a country that has been into five armed conflicts, and really seeing how — the mistreatment of Cameroonians in immigration prison. We were forced to establish the first Black Immigrants bail fund because we had $50,000 to pay for a Cameroonian teenager who fled Cameroon in order to come to this country. And we’ve been asking for TPS For two years. And we’ve been begging President Biden and Vice President Harris, Susan Rice to please allow TPS Cameroon, so they can be free or at least protected from deportation. They have refused. We are able to see the results in less than a week. TPS Ukraine was provided with the funds. We continue to push for this and ask for it. TPS Cameroon. We cannot wait to ensure equity is a part our immigration system and that Cameroonans receive it. TPS It is important that you do this as soon as possible. We commend the administration for highlighting the lives and achievements of Ukrainians as well as the Afghan community. However, it is long overdue. TPS Cameroon to be provided. We say that protection delayed is protection denied. We can see how we have given exemption to Russians and Ukrainians who are entering the U.S. border with Mexico.

Juan and Amy, I was there last week trying to highlight the harm of Title 42. And I clearly recall in 2020 April 2020 when the Haitian Bridge Alliance sent their first letters, launching a campaign asking President Trump to end Title 42. Title 42 did not bear any water as to how they would put Title 42 in place to stop asylum seekers from receiving protection. We are pushing for President Biden to end Title 42 as a community and as a movement. CDC to put an end to Title 42 and make sure it’s never used against people at the U.S.-Mexico border, specifically Black and Brown people, because we clearly see that we are allowing Ukrainians and other Europeans to access the process at the U.S.-Mexico border, while at the same time making sure that Haitians are not afforded the same protection. So, we really are calling on President Biden to highlight the fact that, yes, President Trump then called — said that he did not want people from s—hole countries, such as Haiti and many African countries, but he will welcome people from Europe. We can see that President Trump’s words were not true. President Biden is proving us that we are able and willing to accept immigrants, provided they are not Black or Brown.

AMY GOODMAN: Guerline —

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: And I wanted to ask Maria this — you mentioned earlier you’re a proud Mexican American. Oh, I’m sorry, Maria has dropped. Let me return to Guerline. Guerline, in terms of what you believe the Biden administration needs to do immediately, beyond what’s happening now with Title 42, what are the next steps that you think the administration needs to take?

GUERLINE JOZEF: Next is to investigate how to provide safety and access to all people seeking freedom. As a movement, service provider, and advocate on the ground at U.S.-Mexico’s border, we are willing and able to help and support the President Biden and his entire administration to create safe access for all. We want to ensure that we look at our immigration system with an equity lens. How can we make sure that this isn’t repeated? We want President Biden understand that we, the people on the ground, are serving the community. We are the people in most need of protection. We must ensure that all citizens have access to this protection.

We are also asking them not to push the border. As Maria mentioned, we are now seeing border not just at the U.S. – Mexico border but all the way to Panama. We are seeing this because policies are being implemented to eliminate all avenues for people seeking safety. We must change the system. And what I say is that if the system doesn’t serve the people, what is the point of it?

AMY GOODMAN: Guerline —

GUERLINE JOZEF: Our goal is to make —

AMY GOODMAN: I just wanted to thank you so much for being with us, because in our next segment, we’re going to go global with this. As you talk about Cameroonian refugees as well as Nigerian refugees, it is clear that the same thing happened to the students fleeing Ukraine with millions of other Ukrainians. Some were held in Poland or Estonia, while others were released in Poland and Estonia. Each country celebrated their white Ukrainian compatriots. Guerline Jozef: I want to thank for being here, executive director of Haitian Bridge Alliance and Maria Hinojosa (awarded journalist and host of Latino USA. We’re going to link to Maria’s series, “The Moving Border: Even Further South,” and of course continue to look at this issue.

Next, we will examine the conditions African migrants are forced to live in when trying to reach Europe from Libyan detention centres. Stay with us.