WASHINGTON, D.C. — It’s not enough for Biden Administration officials to say they were outraged by the image of U.S. Border Patrol agents on horseback swinging long reins and confronting Haitian refugees with aggressive actions and profanity.
Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas said he was “horrified” by what he saw. Press Secretary Jen Psaki echoed his sentiments, responding she “can’t imagine what context would make that appropriate.” That’s because there is no situation where treating any human beings like herded animals is appropriate. In response, Mayorkas has promised a full investigation and said that abuse of a migrant is against Border Control policy, training, and values.
These are nice words, but words are not enough. Our government must also acknowledge that the inhumane treatment of immigrant women and children has long been a source of enduring national shame. Now the roundup like cattle of Haitian and other immigrants at the border, followed by mass deportations, is a further indignity.
There have been plenty of opportunities to take steps towards comprehensive immigration reform. For example, in 2019, the House passed the Humanitarian Standards for Individuals in Customs and Borders Protection Custody Act (HR 3239) which would have guaranteed access to adequate sanitation facilities, clean drinking water, hygiene products, and more and also that initial health screenings to be conducted in a specific time period, especially for women, and children, who make up three-quarters of the people migrating to this country. Instead of codifying the standards in which people should be treated when they enter the U.S., the Senate put politics over people and held up the bill.
Many of the people coming into this country are doing so because they are already vulnerable and attempting to escape terrible circumstances. Our immigration process needs to embrace more humane standards (like those proposed by HR 3239). We need to adopt a feminist lens when it comes to immigration reform, centering the experiences of the women and children and ensuring we’re addressing issues like providing access to healthcare, keeping their families together, and protecting them against the violence they may be attempting to escape.
Joe Biden ran on a promise of a fair and humane immigration system—surely, he can see this is anything but that. Congress has failed to act on immigration in more than 25 years, and this is the consequence. It’s time for the Biden Administration and leaders in Washington to finally come together on comprehensive immigration reform and ensure that all people – no matter how they’ve arrived to this country – are treated with humanity and respect. NOW will continue to hold them accountable to this promise.