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Amnesty International report accuses U.S. of continued ill treatment of Haitian migrants

Felix Marquez
Horse-mounted U.S. Border Patrol agents drive back asylum-seeking Haitian migrants on the bank of the Rio Grande at Del Rio, Texas, last year.

A year after images of border patrol agents on horseback confronting Haitian migrants on the U.S. border caused international controversy, a new human rights report insists that since then, the situation for Haitian migrants has not improved — and may be worse.

The strongly-worded report by the human rights nonprofit Amnesty International is called “They Did Not Treat Us Like People.” It is damning from the opening sentence: “U.S. authorities have subjected Haitian asylum seekers to arbitrary detention and humiliating ill-treatment that amounts to race-based torture.”

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The Homeland Security Department, which oversees border enforcement, did not respond for comment.

Amnesty International’s assessment of conditions for Haitians on the U.S. southern border, based on interviews with at least two dozen refugees, comes after mounted U.S. Border Patrol agents drove many Haitian migrants back into the Rio Grande last year. That incident drew a sharp rebuke from President Biden, who promised more humane treatment for Haitians.

But the report insists Haitians continue to receive discriminatory treatment – including shackling and handcuffing on expulsion flights back to Haiti. And it contends they’ve been inordinately blocked or discouraged from applying for U.S. asylum – despite terrible poverty and gang violence in Haiti.

Tim Padgett is the Americas editor for Miami NPR affiliate WLRN, covering Latin America, the Caribbean and their key relationship with South Florida.