Last month horrific scenes were broadcast around the world—thousands of Haitian migrants, brutalized and penned in by armed authorities at an outdoor camp at the U.S.’s border with Mexico in Del Rio, Texas. As Revolution wrote, the videos and photos of this outrage “provided but a glimpse of the pain and repression inflicted by (the U.S.) against Haitian asylum seekers ... They evoked gruesome images from U.S. history, of mounted white slave catchers hunting down Black people; of people crammed into slave ships.”
The U.S. moved quickly and violently to remove Haitians from their squalid riverbank encampment. This was not out of any humanitarian concern but because of the damage done to the U.S.’s image and reputation when countless people worldwide saw images of impoverished, desperate people suffering as they sought asylum in the “land of the free.” Alejandro Mayorkas, chief of the Department of Homeland security (DHS), said the U.S. “expelled” 2,000 of the migrants at Del Rio back to Haiti; another 5,000 were placed in DHS custody for “processing”; and 8,000 “decided to return to Mexico voluntarily.”
Most of these Haitian migrants had left intolerable conditions in Haiti years ago. Many had worked and raised families in South American countries like Brazil and Chile—until many felt no longer welcome in those countries or able to get work. They had invested their life savings and traveled thousands of miles across treacherous terrain, including the deadly jungle of the Darien Gap between Panama and Colombia, trying to reach the U.S.-Mexico border and apply for asylum.
Voluntary, My Ass
Most of the Haitians from the Del Rio encampment forced back into Mexico were sent hundreds of miles from the U.S. border. There, they face being deported to Haiti. On September 29, 70 Haitian men, women, and children were put on a plane in Villahermosa, a city on Mexico’s southern Gulf Coast, and flown to Haiti. Mexican authorities were coy about whether there would be more deportations. But an official with Mexico's National Immigration Institute referred to those on the flight as "the first group." And a statement from the Institute said that Mexican authorities and Haitian representatives agreed to "start the assisted voluntary return of migrants in Mexico to their homeland."
The deportations are anything but “voluntary.” A few days before the flight from Villahermosa, Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador (AMLO) proclaimed, "We don't want Mexico to be a migrant camp; we want the problem to be addressed fully." A week after the first flight, on October 6, Reuters reported that another 129 people were deported to Haiti from Mexico, this time leaving from the southern city of Tapachula. The Immigration Institute said the flight was part of an agreement between the Mexican and Haitian governments.
Nikel Norassaint, a 49-year-old man originally from Haiti, told reporters he didn’t know where he was going when Mexican officials put him on the flight from Villahermosa. When the plane landed, he said, “Wow, I'm in Haiti. My heart almost stopped.” A brief video posted on Twitter shows a man jumping from the stairs of a plane about to take off from Mexico with Haitian migrants being deported. The man who posted the video tweeted, “In this video a man jumps off the ladder and runs, chased by migration agents, while fleeing the plane that should take him back to Haiti. Will this be what AMLO's government calls voluntary returns?"
Many of the desperate migrants forced out of Del Rio were sent to Tapachula, a city of over 350,000 near Mexico’s border with Guatemala. Tapachula is in the state of Chiapas (the poorest in Mexico), and is the southernmost large city in Mexico. Luis García Villagrán, director of the Center for Human Dignity in southern Mexico, said, “We have 11,000 to 12,000 Haitians who are stuck in Tapachula, and I say stuck because they are not being given the opportunity to seek refuge in Mexico nor being allowed to proceed to the United States.”
A lawyer with the Los Angeles-based pro-immigrant organization CHIRLA described Tapachula as “a hellscape of discrimination and unemployment” for asylum seekers. Immigrants are routinely brutalized by Mexican authorities. The Washington Post reported a man was pushed to the ground by authorities, while holding a young child: “As the agents approach him, he stumbles backward and then stands up. ‘Kill me,’ he says. ‘Kill me in front of the child.’ He desperately tries to walk back to the road as agents block his path. The man crashes against the shields, the child tightly clinging to his neck.” A video shows a migrant man being tackled, punched and kicked by a group of men in Tapachula while uniformed police advance with their riot gear.
The Haitians in Tapachula are prevented from leaving the city. The Los Angeles Times described how Mexican national guard troops and immigration agents descended on a group of hundreds trying to make the 900 mile journey to the U.S. border on foot and forced them back to Tapachula. The Times reported the city has become a “vast open-air detention camp, a dead end for as many as 50,000 migrants.”
Erika Mouynes, the foreign minister of Panama, was in Washington, D.C. recently, meeting with U.S. officials. The website Axios reported that she said “there are as many as 60,000 migrants—mostly Haitian—poised to make their way north to the U.S.-Mexico border.” (Haitian people travelling north from South America must pass through Panama.) Mouynes also told reporters that over 85,000 migrants travelling north passed through Panama this year, and most are “likely on their way” to try to reach the U.S.
The Gangster Logic of Imperialism
Like Mafia godfathers who compel underlings to do their dirty work, the U.S. has assigned Mexico to carry out and enforce much of the heartless and seemingly endless cruelty it inflicts upon Haitian asylum seekers.1 When Trump was president, he publicly threatened to use punishing tariffs to wreak havoc on Mexico’s economy if the AMLO government didn’t do more to stop caravans of migrants heading to the U.S. Biden is operating with more stealth, and out of the view of public awareness and scrutiny. However, as Jessica Bolter of Washington D.C.’s Migration Policy Institute said, “Even though the Biden administration may be doing it more quietly, they are certainly putting as much pressure on Mexico as was put on Mexico in the last administration. They are still relying on Mexico to prevent people from getting to the U.S.- Mexico border.”
For those still deluded enough to think the U.S. with Democrats in the White House will act with more compassion towards migrants, listen to the chilling warning issued by U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken in Mexico City last week. Asked about migrants seeking to cross Mexico for asylum in the U.S., Blinken replied, "The journey is profoundly dangerous and it will not succeed."2
Urgently Needed: Revolution
More fundamentally, deep and ongoing crisis of the capitalist-imperialist system, dominated by the U.S., is convulsing Central America, South America, and the Caribbean, and imposing ever-increasing misery upon tens of millions of people. José Antonio Ocampo, a professor at Columbia University, concluded in a recent study, “The year 2020 closed with the worst economic crisis in Latin American history.” That translates into hunger, homelessness, joblessness, lack of clean water, medical care, and basic necessities, for countless people. This situation has been greatly intensified by the global COVID pandemic.3
Imperialism is inflicting monstrous crimes against humanity and incalculable human suffering on Haitian and other desperate people across the length and breadth of this hemisphere. As Revolution concluded an article on the U.S.’s repression against Haitians in Del Rio, “Anyone who thought abominations like these would stop with Trump out of office needs to wake the hell up. The horrific oppression facing all immigrants and all those arrested at the border is deeply embedded into the system of global plunder and exploitation called capitalism-imperialism, a system that routinely feasts upon and destroys the lives of millions, and enforces with murderous brutality, regardless of who the political leadership of the system is.”
These crimes are being orchestrated and carried out by an administration that promised to carry out a “fair and humane” policy toward immigrants.” Even more bloodthirsty fascists in the Republican Party demand much more violence and repression to carry out and enforce the interests of “making America great.”
Both of them have no real answers other than carrying out massive and escalating repression.
Both of them represent the interests of the capitalist-imperialist system that feasts upon and destroys the lives of billions of people, worldwide.”