On September 20th, disparaging images of Haitian migrants in Del Rio, Texas captured the heart of the world.
These were images that you would not expect to see in 2021. They were pictures of Haitian migrants being dehumanized and whipped by Border Patrol Agents on horseback. These images hit us hard. We could not comprehend or imagine how these images were coming from under the land of the free, the country where every immigrant has the right to due process.
A lot of Haitian migrants arrived at the border from Chile and Brazil. The journey to the U.S. border was torturous, perilous and deadly. Many lost family members while passing through 10 different countries and crossing the Darien Gap to reach the Mexican border. They saw and experienced unimaginable things.
But during a period of two weeks, thousands of Haitian migrants were deported back to Haiti without pleading their cases before a judge. The leaders in the Boston community could not stay indifferent. A group of 10 pastors and community leaders from Massachusetts, New York, and Florida traveled to Texas to show support and solidarity.
About a week before our arrival, the camp under the Del Rio Bridge was cleared. But we were all asking – what happened to the people who were there? We saw images of some of them being chased and arrested along the Mexican border.
Upon arriving in Houston, Texas, we held a meeting to solidify our plan for the next two days. On October 1st, we held a press conference with a young Haitian activist, Ayana A. Ayana was recently arrested under the Brooklyn Bridge because she was protesting against the inhumane treatment of our brothers and sisters. This press conference was live on Tele Louange, a Christian Network Television based in Boston that broadcasts in over 56 countries.
Then we went to 2 detention centers to visit our brothers and sisters. We visited Core Civic, a detention facility in Houston. We were told that some of our beloved brothers and sisters were incarcerated there; however we need to call ICE in order to get access into the center. Unfortunately, we were unable to reach anyone from ICE.
We then visited the Montgomery Detention Center where we received the same message. Fortunately, there was an ICE building couple yards away. We presented ourselves to the ICE officials and explained why we were there. The manager of the Montgomery Center was impressed, shocked and moved that we came this far to come to support our brothers and sisters. However, we left without seeing them. But we were not discouraged because we knew that our presence made an impact.
On October 2nd, we left Houston for San Antonio, where we met with Pastor Smith Franceau, the Founder and President of Feeding Hungry Children Ministries; an international organization that support families in dire need all over the world. Pastor Franceau used to work in California but relocated to San Antonio, Texas so he can help our brothers and sisters who were and are being released by ICE.
Pastor Franceau guided us to San Antonio Airport to meet with some of the local state workers who are helping the people who get released with printing tickets, double checking their documents, and other tasks. We learned that when coming to the airport, there are four things they need to have:
· The packet provided by ICE
· Printed boarding pass
· The ID received from the detention center
· A passport, even if expired
At the airport in Houston, we met with multiple families whom we had the chance to talk to. Some were traveling to New York and others to Florida. They shared with us the harrowing experiences they had during their journey throughout the Darien Gap, under the Del Rio Bridge and inside the detention centers. One of the families reportedly mentioned that they witnessed people getting raped and saw multiple dead bodies.
The work to support our brothers and sisters is just beginning as many more will be released in the next couple weeks. They will need our support to get a hot meal, clean clothes and to purchase tickets so they can reunite with their families.
Partners for Change, Inc., is joining the fight. We are organizing a supply drive. The supplies will be distributed to different churches in Massachusetts where many of our brothers and sisters are being sheltered at this time.
See flyer below.
JOIN THE FIGHT. DO WHAT IS RIGHT.