Case Status: Filed
Haitian Bridge Alliance v. Biden
We challenged the abuse and rights violations of Haitian asylum seekers in Del Rio, TX, perpetrated under the unlawful Title 42 process.
In September 2021, Mayco (“Michael”) Celon and his wife Veronique Cassonell along with their two- and eight- year old children were among the thousands of Haitian asylum seekers who had fled danger and instability to seek protection in the United States near Del Rio, Texas. While waiting in the makeshift encampment set up by U.S. Customs and Border Protection near the Del Rio International Bridge, Michael and his family suffered from hunger, dehydration, and triple-digit temperatures while they slept on the ground. Desperate to sustain their families, many crossed to Mexico to buy the food and water that U.S. officers had repeatedly denied them.
What Haitian migrants, including Michael’s co-plaintiff Mirard, met when they returned to the Del Rio encampment was captured in heartrending photos and video that shocked people everywhere and shined a spotlight on the mistreatment of Haitians in the CBP Encampment. After Mirard stepped out of the river, holding two bags of food for his wife Madeleine and his daughter, he encountered a horse-mounted border officer. As other officers looked on—some on foot, others on horseback or in official vehicles—the mounted officer shouted at Mirard, lashed at him with split reins, grabbed his neck and gripped him by the shirt collar. The officer attempted to drag Mirard back to the river, destroying Mirard’s shirt and causing his shoes to fall off. The officer released Mirard only when the horse was about to trample him. Two days later, Mirard and his family were taken to a detention facility. From there, Mirard and Madeleine were shackled, placed on a plane with their young daughter, and expelled to Haiti – the country they had fled.
Michael, Mirard and their other co-plaintiffs are not alone in the suffering they experienced in Del Rio. Thousands of Haitian asylum seekers in the CBP Encampment were similarly impacted by U.S. officials’ cruelty and calculated indifference. U.S. officials applied the Title 42 Process in a way that subjected Haitian asylum seekers to deplorable conditions while in government custody, was deliberately indifferent to humanitarian concerns, and focused on expelling Haitian asylum seekers as quickly as possible. They were denied food, water, and medical care. They were physically and verbally abused. And they were summarily expelled without an opportunity to request asylum and without consideration of the danger they would face in Haiti or Mexico.
When the world witnessed the events unfold in Del Rio, President Biden said he “takes responsibility” for the “horrible” treatment of Haitians and promised a swift investigation. In the ensuing three months, however, there has been no accountability for these acts. Instead, U.S. officials have reaffirmed their commitment to the Title 42 Process and continue to use it to expel asylum seekers to Haiti at alarming levels—at least 99 expulsion flights to Haiti carrying more than 10,000 asylum seekers have occurred since the government began to clear the CBP Encampment in September. And the Biden Administration has shown no evidence that it has abandoned its cruel Haitian Deterrence Policy.
That is why we have joined with Haitian asylum seekers, Haitian Bridge Alliance and Justice Action Center to sue the Biden administration. Plaintiffs—eleven Haitian asylum seekers who were victims of U.S. officials’ abusive treatment in the CBP Encampment and expelled without an opportunity to access the U.S. asylum system, and Haitian Bridge Alliance, a community-based organization that has led the legal and humanitarian response to that conduct—bring this lawsuit to ensure accountability and an end to the Biden Administration’s harmful, discriminatory, and unlawful policies. Justice Action Center and Innovation Law Lab are co-counsel.