WASHINGTON, D.C. – District of Columbia Attorney General Karl A. Racine and Illinois Attorney General Kwame Raoul today led a coalition of 15 attorneys general in filing a friend of the court brief supporting nonprofit group Haitian Bridge Alliance’s challenge to the federal government’s treatment of Haitian migrants at the United States border.
In their brief, the attorneys general oppose the federal government’s expulsion of thousands of Haitian migrants—including those seeking asylum—at the border without considering their fears of persecution or torture. The brief further argues that Haitian migrants offer substantial contributions to the United States and expelling them needlessly deprives the United States of those benefits while also retraumatizing an already vulnerable population.
“Anyone fleeing persecution, violence, or poverty for a better, safer life should be treated with dignity. Sadly, many Haitian migrants who took long, treacherous journeys in hopes of obtaining safety and refuge were denied access to the full humanitarian protections allowed under federal law,” said AG Racine. “As a Haitian immigrant whose parents fled Haiti’s authoritarian regime when I was just three years old, I’m troubled by the mistreatment of Haitian immigrants at the southern border. We can and must do better as a country.”
In their brief, the attorneys general urge the Biden administration to give Haitian Bridge Alliance the chance to advance their claims about the mistreatment of Haitian migrants at the border because:
- The United States government cannot expel non-citizens to a country where they might face persecution or torture: Asylum seekers must be given the opportunity, through an individualized assessment, to demonstrate their fears of persecution or torture before being returned to their country or sent elsewhere. The federal government deprived thousands of Haitian migrants from this individualized analysis when it expelled them en masse under Title 42.
- Haiti’s widespread gang violence underscores the critical importance of the United States’ obligations to Haitians fleeing persecution: Haiti suffers from gang violence that is beyond the control of the government. According to the State Department, in 2021, armed gangs in Haiti reportedly displaced 20,000 people and captured up to 10 police stations. This makes it even more important for the United States to uphold its commitments to protect refugees.
- The United States benefits from the presence of immigrants, including those from Haiti: Immigrants contribute substantially to their local economies and communities. Nearly one in six workers is an immigrant, and immigrants make up 20% of United States business owners. According to one study, 71% of Haitian immigrants ages 16 or older are engaged in the civilian labor force, compared to 62% of the United States-born population of the same age group. Moreover, immigrants, including Haitian immigrants, are essential members of many communities and embedded in the fabric of American society. They enrich the cultural diversity and vibrancy of their local communities.
- The federal government should not further traumatize Haitian asylum seekers, many of whom may settle in the United States: The Haitian Bridge Alliance’s complaint alleges various instances of mistreatment, including malnourishment and inadequate medical care, as well as threats and physical assault from mounted Border Patrol officers on horseback. Research shows that inadequate food and medical treatment, as well as physical or verbal abuse, can have long-lasting physical and mental effects. Haitian immigrants already experience extensive migration-related stress. To prevent further harm and unlock the benefits of immigration, it is critical that the federal government treat migrants humanely as they seek refuge in the United States, including ensuing they have a fair and individualized opportunity to pursue their humanitarian claims free from physical or verbal abuse.
A copy of the amicus brief is available here.
This brief follows a letter that AG Racine and 17 other attorneys general sent in September 2021, urging President Joe Biden to engage in humanitarian solutions to address the Haitian refugee crisis at the United States border and to cease the brash deportation policies of the previous administration.
AG Racine is leading the amicus brief with Illinois AG Kwame Raoul, who are both the only two current Haitian attorneys general. They are joined by AGs from Connecticut, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Nevada, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, Oregon, Rhode Island, Vermont, and Washington.
Protecting Immigrant Communities
Under AG Racine’s leadership, OAG has worked to protect the rights and safety of immigrant communities and has challenged several federal laws and practices that unfairly target immigrant communities, from the Muslim travel ban to limitations on asylum, the termination of Temporary Protected Status for Haitian-born residents, the Trump administration’s attacks on DACA, family separation, and more. OAG has also advocated for states and localities that have instituted pro-immigrant policies by helping to protect public safety funding for sanctuary cities and to limit local resources for federal immigration-crackdowns.