Boston Haitians rally against treatment of border migrants
BOSTON (AP) — Scores of Haitians and their supporters rallied Friday in downtown Boston, venting their frustrations at the treatment of Haitian migrants at the Mexican border and demanding President Joe Biden’s administration stop deporting them back to their unstable homeland.
A crowd of more than 100 people in front of the John F. Kennedy Federal Building held signs saying “Haitian Lives Matter” and “End Anti-Blackness” as they loudly chanted “Stop the flights” and “We deserve better.”
State lawmakers and city officials, nearly all of them Democrats, gave fiery speeches criticizing Biden’s handling of the migrants.
State Rep. Brandy Fluker, a Boston Democrat who represents one of the largest Haitian enclaves in the state, was among those calling for Biden to grant temporary protective status to Haitian migrants.
She said it would be “disrespectful” to send Haitians back to the Caribbean nation while it’s still reeling from July’s assassination of President Jovenel Moïse and a devastating earthquake in August.
Haitian community leaders said migrants from the latest wave are beginning to make their way to the Boston-area, which is home to the third largest Haitian diaspora community in the country.
Geralde Gabeau, a native of Haiti who heads Immigrant Family Services Institute, said after the rally that her Boston nonprofit is assisting some 20 Haitians — mostly mothers with young children — who arrived on a flight earlier this week after being released by authorities at the border.
“Their journey has been long and difficult,” she said. “They are feeling a sense of relief because now we can show them that we care about them.”
On Friday, officials said a Texas border encampment that had swelled to almost 15,000 people had been emptied. Droves of Haitians and other migrants converged at the the border crossing connecting Del Rio, Texas, and Ciudad Acuña, Mexico, in recent weeks, driven by confusion over the Biden administration’s policies and misinformation on social media.
Andrea Henry, a 61-year-old Stoughton, Massachusetts, resident who is originally from Haiti, said the images of the harsh treatment of Haitians and other migrants by U.S. border patrol agents were infuriating and upsetting.
“How can you do this to human beings?” she said. “Humans on horses jumping on other humans? That can’t happen in 2021. It’s because they’re Black. There’s no other reason.”
Henry, who has lived in the U.S. for 40 years, said she’d discouraged her family from making the risky journey but understands the desperation and frustration of those that did. She applied to have her father come to the U.S. some 15 years ago, but is still awaiting approval for his visa.
“Now, they’re stuck there,” Henry said. “They can’t even survive.”
Clara Raymond, a 56-year-old Boston resident who is also originally from Haiti, said she attended Friday’s rally in part because she was worried about her young cousin, who had been making the perilous journey across the southern border.
The 25-year-old was living in Chile the last four years and was hoping to reunite with family in Florida, but no one has heard from him in the two weeks since he’s reached Mexico, she said.
“I’m worried they’ve deported him back to Haiti,” Raymond said. “It’s terrible back there.”
She was equally appalled at the scene at the border.
“It’s so sad. It reminded me of what I learned about slavery in the U.S., “ Raymond said. “They’re not animals. They’re human beings like everyone else.”