It was the whips

Adrienne Bell
Adrienne Bell

Executive Director, Brand New Congress

Seeing whips in the hands of federal agents, used against poor Black folks, affected me in a visceral way.

How quickly we went from “Refugees are welcome here,” to this.

Images of white men on horseback as U.S. Customs and Border Protection agents as they chased down Haitian asylum seekers on horseback and whipped them.
Paul Ratje/AFP/Getty Images

This week the world was rocked by these photos out of my home state of Texas, showing U.S. Customs and Border Protection agents as they chased down Haitian asylum seekers on horseback.

For some of us, it was also a painful reminder that the cruel and violent practices of former slave patrols are alive and well in 2021 among our largest federal law enforcement agency.

The differences in how we regard Afghan vs. Haitian asylum seekers are incredibly stark to me, particularly given the similar circumstances.

Both Afghanistan and Haiti have been hit by the devastating impacts of climate change. Both have been exploited for their labor and natural resources by multinational corporations. Both have suffered under years of American political destabilization and military interference — in Haiti’s case, dating back more than a century.

So many of our officials have issued calls to welcome Afghan asylum seekers who worked directly for U.S. forces in Afghanistan. Is that why Haitian asylum seekers are not welcomed? Are they seen as less useful to our government?

We reject the notion that a human being’s worth is defined by their usefulness to an employer or a government. Everyone is worthy of dignity. No human is illegal or an alien.

Since 2017, abolishing these rogue immigration agencies has been the cornerstone of Brand New Congress’ policy for immigration justice.

We were the first national organization to call for the abolition of Customs and Border Protection, and Immigration and Customs Enforcement, and we stand by that today.

ICE and CBP were never intended to facilitate immigrations, pursue justice or guarantee due process for immigrants and asylum seekers. They are deportation machines designed to be as cruel as possible.

The cruelty we saw on display this week in Del Rio is not a procedural flaw. The cruelty is the point.

If we’re going to say refugees are welcome here, then we have to mean it. We must abolish ICE and CBP and rebuild our immigration system to be one that recognizes the dignity and humanity of all people.

Do not look away. Confront this, and help us change it.


For the People,
Adrienne Bell
Executive Director
Brand New Congress