Kai Wright: Hey, Nadege.
Nadege Green: Hey, Kai.
Kai Wright: We've turned to you to understand the relationship between Haiti and the United States. Now a lot of displaced Haitians have been deported from the US-Mexico border, people are still coming. As someone who has reported on this in some degree and has ties to the community, what is your hope for how we would interact with displaced people when they arrive here?
Nadege Green: Being heard is the hope. One of the main things for me that comes to mind is why not let people make their case? They're coming here to be heard and seeking asylum is not an illegal act. In order to seek asylum, you have to be here on US soil? It's the silencing for me. It's the, what are you afraid of? Why are you afraid to hear the human stories? They put everything on the line to get here. Why not hear them once they're here?
Kai Wright: That is the question we are going to try to answer together tonight.
Regina de Heer: Has anyone in your family history ever had to flee their home?
Julian: My background is Haitian and African American. My grandmother's mother was a slave. When I was younger and growing up, I would hear that story. Seeing right now what's going on in Haiti or even what's going on in Texas, in our country, dealing with Haitians that are coming across the border and fleeing and just trying to get in the country but they're getting whipped like creatures or animals and knowing I'm half Haitian, you know what I mean? It's just disturbing. It gives me anxiety seeing that this is going on and it's happening to my culture, my race. The anxiety is to me, like, "Oh, it could be me one day."
Regina: What do you mean that when you see it, you see that it could be you? Can you elaborate on that?
Julian: I am that descent, I'm in a different state, I'm in a different city but still people can see that power being done, people would take advantage of that power.
Kai Wright: This is the United States of Anxiety. I'm Kai Wright. Those images of Haitian immigrants seeking refuge at this country's southern border and being driven away instead by horses, they were searing yet another kind of viral video showing state violence against black bodies. Beyond the details of the horses and the lassos, those images didn't really depict anything new, at least not in substance. Asylum seekers of all kinds, Haitians for sure but also people from many other countries have been met at our southern border with hostility for a lot of years.
Human rights advocates say they've been met with illegal hostility at that. This unwelcome greeting has been a uniquely bipartisan feature of American politics. It's come under both Republican and Democratic leadership. In today's show, we're going to try to understand not only how that's happened, the details of policy and history that led to those ugly images from Del Rio but also why it's happening. Why is this kind of meanness not only possible but frankly normal from a nation that prides itself on being a melting pot? Why is it acceptable? Why do we tolerate it?
We'll learn the legal history of asylum and dig into what can be changed now and we're going to take some of your calls but we begin with the ongoing crisis for Haitian asylum seekers, in particular. I'm joined by Nadege Green who you may have caught as a guest host of our show this summer. She led our conversation about the global response to the earthquake that displaced thousands of people in Haiti.
Nadege, I think people may not understand that the Haitian migrants seeking refuge in the US now are not the people displaced by that earthquake. Who's migrating here now?
Nadege Green: Most of the people who are migrating here have already been en route before the earthquake. These are largely Haitians who are living in places like Chile and Brazil. They were actually displaced by the first earthquake in Haiti. Many moved to that region for work. Over time, as they faced hardship in Chile, in Brazil, and other parts, started making the route here. Some of the folks who are coming here in Brazil, in particular, have expressed that they were facing sexual exploitation and trafficking while there. There are a number of stories whenever we talk about immigration and the stories around what makes people move.
The folks who are coming here have many stories about why they're here. In a lot of cases, their children were born in Brazil, were born in Chile. You're seeing toddlers coming. Many of the folks coming are women with children, families. There are a number of factors that are driving them here but to your point, no, they're not coming directly from Haiti. Many of the folks we see at the border have actually been there for a while now. This is not a new crisis or even framing it as a crisis but this is not a new migration to the US. These are folks who have been en route for some time now and have been stuck on the Mexico side.
Kai Wright: For some as much as a decade, we're talking about going back to the 2010 earthquake and so that's striking. You are deeply rooted in the Haitian American community in Miami where you're living and I imagine connected to folks around the country and I just wonder what you're hearing in the community in reaction to this moment.
Nadege Green: There is a deep sadness around what is happening. I was recently at a protest that was held here in Miami by Family Action Network Movement, FANM, which was run by a Haitian woman named Marleine Bastien and there were a lot of younger Haitians at this protest. One of the things that struck me as I was listening to them was almost like we are reliving what our parents lived when they were seeing the migration of Haitians in the 80s and 90s but they were coming by boat then.
I personally remember watching my mom watch the news and she was in complete tears as she watched these families attempt to come. Some of them didn't make it, they drowned at sea. She would cry as she would see the reception of Haitians to the US when they did make it. I remember thinking as a kid, "Mom, you don't even know them. Why are you crying?" Because it did not occur to me at that young age of probably six or seven years old the kinship that you feel. Even if you don't know the actual person.
Fast forward to today and what we're seeing at the border, so many young Haitian Americans, myself included, saw those images and you could not help but have tears well up, to see the treatment of the folks coming. There's this generational reaction as well that, like, "Wow, we are experiencing today what our parents experienced in the late '70s, '80s, and '90s. Overall, we are seeing the same message that you are not welcome. Not only that you are not welcomed but that you are met with violence after risking everything to get here.
Kai Wright: I want to bring in one of our council members here in New York, Councilmember Farah Louis represents Flatbush, Brooklyn, which is home to one of the country's largest Haitian American communities including the neighborhood known as Little Haiti. She visited the refugee camp at the border in Del Rio just before border agents raided it. Councilmember, welcome to the show.
Farah Louis: Thank you so much for having me.
Kai Wright: Thank you for joining us. I know you have to run so we'll try to keep it brief with you but I just wanted to know what prompted your trip to Del Rio in the first place? Help people understand what led you to go there?
Farah Louis: I'm a daughter of Haitian American parents who migrated to the United States many years ago. It was very important for me to be able to find a way to circumvent any crisis or issues we may have here in Brooklyn if our Haitian brothers and sisters would be traveling over to New York City. Making sure we were ready for them to provide resources, whether that be housing, immigration services, providing for, there was so many people that had babies along the way during their trek to the United States.
We wanted to be prepared for them and to welcome them with open arms. There's no way to do that from Brooklyn. I created a delegation that would allow me to be in Texas to do a fact-finding mission on what the needs would be.
Kai Wright: What did you see when you got there? More to the point, who did you meet? Can you describe who you met and what they told you?
Farah Louis: It was a very interesting experience and a very negative experience for us. I told my pastor, Pastor A. R. Bernard from Brooklyn and he supported my efforts to go over and had some folks from the church travel with me to Texas. We couldn't get anyone to support us along the way just to make sure that we had everything that we needed in order to get to the border where our Haitian brothers and sisters were located.
Kai Wright: Meaning the federal government, you couldn't get any support from the federal government. Is that what you mean when you say you couldn't-
Farah Louis: No one from the federal government. Congressman Hakeem Jeffries made some phone calls just so that the representatives in Texas were aware that I would be there but other than that, we didn't get any support. When we did get there, we met with border patrol agents that told us that they utilize their discretion. If a Haitian migrant wanted to see a judge, the discretion would fall solely on them in order for them to know if they would be able to be processed and go to that next step of awaiting to hear from or to be able to call their sponsor or family to stay in the states and move forward in the process.
We met with ICE agents who were very disrespectful, very dismissive. They didn't allow us to speak to the Haitian migrants, we were very aggressive, we did our due diligence to make sure that we could speak to them, we were able to speak to a few of them, but they didn't allow us to have full engagement with the thousands of folks that were there. We knew what we had to do and we had to come back to New York and do a call to action, which is what we're working on at the moment.
The conditions were definitely inhumane, we believe that the federal government was not compassionate towards these folks that traveled for months. Some of them pregnant, some of them have ailments, everybody had a particular condition but all in all, they took this long trek here to the United States, and were not well received, like other folks were. Our hope is that we can work something out with the federal government so that folks can get asylum to get amnesty and can get an opportunity here.
Kai Wright: What do you want your fellow New Yorkers to take from this, because all of us like you, you're not a federal official, you're not either elected or are in the administration that can change policy, but we're all looking at this and thinking, "Wow, what's our role in this?" I just wonder, when you came back, what is it you wanted your fellow New Yorkers to know about it?
Farrah Louis: We want everyone to know that the United States of America and the way our federal government operates is just not welcoming for particular groups. We know that historically America has suppressed Black migration, and that it's going to continue to be a problem until we stand together and we come together to make sure that the federal government finds a better pathway, a safe pathway for people, whether it be from Haiti or any country, any nation to be able to come into the United States. That's the first thing.
The second thing is, immigration policy needs to change in our country. We need our federal representatives to step up on that, we need them to find better solutions to immigration policy. While I'm a local council member, I need my community, I need all elected officials, all stakeholders in our city and around the country to come together to find a way to put pressure on the federal government to do their due diligence. No one should ever be treated this way. Whether they're from Haiti, Chile, anywhere, no one should ever be treated the way our Haitian brothers and sisters were treated.
They were swaddled in one area sleeping in mud, sleeping in dust. We had babies sleeping in mud, sleeping in dust. They weren't fed. The federal government continues to say over and over again that they fed them three times a day. Some of that food gave babies diarrhea for days, they didn't have a proper place for them to take a shower or to use the restroom. No one should ever be treated this way. It doesn't matter where you from, or who you are, everybody deserves to be respected.
Kai Wright: Council member, thank you for giving us your time tonight. Council member Farrah Louis represents Flatbush, Brooklyn, home to one of the country's largest Haitian American communities. Thanks for joining us.
Farrah Louis: Thank you so much for having me.
Kai Wright: Nadege, one of the things you said to me about this is that we have to remember the history here that a lot about how we meet asylum seekers of all sorts at the border today was developed in reaction to Haitian migrants in the first place. Can you briefly recap that history for us?
Nadege Green: Yes of course. Haitians in the '70s and '80s, when they were coming to the US, were coming by the thousands and they were arriving via boat to Miami or other parts of South Florida. In response to this mass migration at the same time, you had mass migration Cubans to Miami as well, but the US policy specifically around mass detention was practiced and created on Haitian. What we see at the border, actually was created in the 1980s in response to Haitians coming.
Before that, the policy in the US was parole. It was not to detain people in that and so this prison like system we see around detention, and immigrant was created when you saw this large wave of Black immigrants coming to the US from Haiti. This was under the Reagan administration in 1981 that undocumented Haitians were denied bond, they were detained, they were also send to Guantanamo. The Guantanamo base in '91, was pretty much like a housing space for Haitians after coups d'état in Haiti.
This very system that we see at the border was practiced and created on Haitians and it's really a sad full circle moment. We see that the migration route has changed, because so many Haitians were in Brazil and Chile, until they took this route, the mainland route, walking through to reach here and what they're meeting at the border is what the people who came before them met in the 1970s and '80s.
As we know, system wide, you create the system on Black immigrants, but it was not just for Haitians because we see that today. What we see at the border and has been happening for the last few decades is tightening at the border of detention, mass detention that this is the tool that we use, but this exact tool was created on Haitians. It is a full circle moment that Haitians are now meeting this at the border because it was created on Haitians in the mid '70s and '80s. The system of mass detention because prior to that it was the US paroled immigrants. When people are like, "Well, what would we do?" Well, look at what we did before, this was not always the case.
Kai Wright: Well, we will get into some of that history in the coming segment. Nadege, thanks for stopping back into the show, we always love having you.
Nadege Green: Thank you so much for having me, Kai.
Kai Wright: Coming up, we're going to dive into more of that recent history of asylum law and policy with someone who has spent 15 years representing children and families who come here seeking refuge. Why don't we want to hear their stories? We'll be right back.
Welcome back. I'm Kai Wright and we're talking tonight about the awful scene at the US's southern border a couple of weeks ago. The image of Haitian asylum seekers being chased by border agents on horseback with lassos. It sparked so much outrage for a moment but it begs deeper questions about why we as a country are comfortable greeting people who show up needing help with such hostility. This is far more than a partisan political conversation, because that hostility has stretched across administrations. As we've seen, it continues right now under the democratic Biden administration.
Why do we accept this or as Nadege Green put it at the start of the show, why don't we even want to hear the stories of people who come seeking refuge? What's that say about us? That's what we're going to be talking about for the rest of the show.
Listeners, we want to hear from you as we talk, I'm wondering, have you or your family ever had to flee your home or is there a circumstance you're worried about that might make you flee your home? Call us up and tell us about it 646-435-7280, again, that's 646-435-7280 or tweet at us using the hashtag #USofanxiety. We've gotten a couple tweets already, one from Jane Peterson, who points out that wildfire twice, has pushed her out of her homes but no, it's nothing compares to the experiences of others.
Lloyd tweets that yes, Nazi Germany and then Stalinist Russia so I imagine here in New York there are a lot of Jewish families in particular with that kind of history. As we take your calls, I want to say, I'm going to be joined by somebody who has been in this conversation for about 15 years in a remarkable way.
You may remember a moment in 2019 it was another one of these moments where the horrors of what's been happening at the border broke through into widespread consciousness but briefly. The House of Representatives was holding a hearing on conditions at a detention facility where the Trump administration was holding children and families in Texas. It got a lot of attention because representative Alexandria Ocasio Cortez testified, but also because of the powerful testimony of this person, a lawyer. Her name is Elora Mukherjee and she runs the Columbia Law School's Immigrant Rights Clinic. Listen to a little bit of what she said back in 2019.
Elora Mukherjee: At Clint I saw children who were dirty, they could not wash their hands with soap because none was available. Many had not brushed their teeth for days. They were wearing the same clothes they had on when they crossed the border, clothes that were covered in nasal mucus, vomit, breastmilk, urine. Multiple children had a strong stench emanating from them because they had not showered in days and they were wearing the same clothes. They could not even change their underwear.
Because of the smell, it was hard for me to sit close to some of the children while we spoke. Children were hungry. Children were traumatized. They consistently cried and some wept in their interviews with me. One six-year-old girl detained all alone could only say, "I'm scared. I'm scared. I'm scared," over and over again. She couldn't even say her own name. I couldn't help her.
Kai Wright: Elora Mukherjee joins us for the rest of the hour to talk about US asylum policy past and present and help answer some of these deeper questions we've got about why the brutality she described before Congress persists. Elora, thanks for joining us.
Elora Mukherjee: Kai, thank you so much for having me.
Kai Wright: Listening to that testimony, I'm struck by the fact that here you were a veteran in this field having seen and heard so many stories, I imagine. You told Congress that you were, "Shaken to your core by what you saw then." I wonder if back then you would have imagined what we're seeing now under a democratic administration.
Elora Mukherjee: Absolutely not. I did not expect in 2019 that we would have a democratic administration that is upholding Trump administration policies that allow for the expulsion of thousands and thousands of asylum seekers without giving them any opportunity to present their fears of returning to their home countries. I did not expect a democratic administration where Haitian migrants or any migrants would be whipped by officers on horseback, where toddlers would almost be trampled by officers on horseback. This has been a devastating, appalling, and shocking moment in America's history.
Kai Wright: How did you come to this work? You've been doing it for 15 years. What was the context at that time when you came in both in the country and for you personally?
Elora Mukherjee: When I started this work, it was January of 2016. That year the George W. Bush administration had opened the T. Don Hutto Family Detention Center in Taylor, Texas. I was part of a team, excuse me, in 2017, that began in-- The facility was opened in 2016. I began investigating it in January of 2017, and this was our nation's first large-scale experiment with detaining asylum-seeking families from around the world in punitive conditions.
In January of 2017, I drove up to this facility with some colleagues and it was literally a converted medium-security prison run by, at that point, the name was the Corrections Corporation of America. Inside when I walked in, I was shocked by what I saw. There were parents and children, including toddlers and infants dressed in identical prison garb. Many had not been outside for days or months at a time. They were locked in their cells, medium-security prison cells with open toilets for more than 12 hours a day, the children had no opportunities for schooling or education at the time that we arrived, many of the children were hungry and malnourished, and it was a shocking experience. At the time, I was a young lawyer in my first full year of practice out of law school.
I thought, naively, I realized in retrospect, but I thought naively at that point that if only America knew what was happening in their name and with their tax dollars to asylum-seeking children from around the world, we as a country would never treat asylum seekers like that again. I never expected that 15 years later, I would be doing the same work, still working with children and families seeking asylum from around the world who are subject to brutality and cruelness, and callousness, instead of being welcomed into the United States, as refugees with recognition of the trauma that they've suffered and what we as a nation could do to help them heal.
Kai Wright: I wonder when I think about that and the fact that here we are still, I keep thinking about the fact that the experience of displacement seems like it is getting more common to human beings on the planet and particularly thinking about climate change. I personally am increasingly able to say, "There but for the grace of God go I." I wonder what you think about that. One, if the fact of displacement is an increasingly common human experience and, two, if it is how that change might affect the way Americans think about it politically.
Elora Mukherjee: You're exactly right, Kai. We are living right now at the moment of greatest human displacement in the history of humankind, Never before have people been forcibly displaced from their homes at such a high rate. As we think about this politically, it is a hard problem for many of Americans politicians, both parties have come together to support to the expulsion of asylum seekers and other migrants from our Southern border.
Most recently using a section of the US code called Title 42, and citing that Title 42 provision as a basis for allowing the expulsion of thousands and thousands of asylum seekers and migrants, even after about two weeks ago, a federal district court held that to be illegal, unlawful, contrary to the refugee act of 1980 and the United Nations refugee convention. As we think about how we should approach this problem, this potential problem of human migration, we should remember what happened during World War II.
During World War II, the United States of America, as well as other countries rejected boatloads and boatloads of asylum seekers. People who were fleeing persecution, mostly people who were Jewish were fleeing persecution. We realized after World War II, Western countries realized that we made a grave mistake that our nation literally sent thousands and thousands of people, including women and young children to their deaths.
In the wake of World War II, Western countries banded together to form the United Nations refugee convention. A promise among these nations, that when people are fleeing persecution, the Western world will give them a chance to present their claims of fear and give them an opportunity to present why they qualify as refugees. It's not a promise to let people in, but it's a promise to give them an opportunity to prove why they are refugees.
All these years later, the Biden administration is in violation of the refugee convention, is in violation of refugee Act. We are turning away among the most vulnerable people on this earth to places where they will face almost certain harm and death. Earlier in this hour, the conversation focused on Haitian migrants.
The Biden administration has recognized that Haiti is experiencing crippling destabilization, that the country is not stable for the overwhelming number of Haitians. Yet since September 19th, this administration has deported more than 5,000 Haitians back to Haiti. Just on Wednesday, there was a record daily number of deporting 700, more than 700 Haitians back to the nation. This is as the country's experiencing severe turmoil and unrest and violence in the wake of the assassination of its president and in the wake of the devastating earthquake from August.
Untenable situation, America must be a moral leader in this world. We, as the American people must hold our government responsible.
Kai Wright: I'm going to get back to some of those policy questions soon. I want to hear about those in a little more detail. Let's first hear from Leanora in the Upper West Side, who I think has a family story that connects to the history that you're talking about. Leanora, welcome to the show.
Lenore: Thank you very much. It's Lenore, but that's okay.
Kai Wright: Oh, I'm sorry. Thank you.
Lenore: Anyway, I forgive you. My father was a Litvak. Well, that means Lithuanian Jewish, and he was born in 1919. His family had what's called a dry goods store in city of Kaunas in Lithuania. The Lithuanian police would walk in with empty pockets and they'd walk out with full pockets. My family said, "It's time for us to leave." I don't think they could come so easily to the United States at that time because like in 1922, the laws changed and it became very hard to get in here because America didn't like the Italians and the Irish coming so they made stricter immigration laws.
My family went to what was then Palestine, which is now Israel and they were there and fortunately they left Lithuania because Lithuania was one of the countries where most of the Jewish population was killed, not just by the Nazis, but even by the local people who live there. My family definitely had to decide in a short period of time, "If we don't leave, we're going to be killed."
Kai Wright: Can I ask you how that then has shaped you or your families' conversation about migrants now?
Lenore: I live in New York and most of them live in Florida and they're really not talking about it, but it's definitely how I think about what's going on. I appreciate that my family eventually was able to get into United States and my grandfather did that because in Israel he obtained a certification for a rabbi. If you were a member of the clergy in the-- he came here in 1928, you could get in if you could find a place to work. Fortunately he came to the United States and here I am on the phone with you.
I really appreciate hearing the tragic stories of what's happening to the Haitians and other people who we're being really persecuted at the borders. I unfortunately think that the history of laminating people from coming into United States is a long running one. It's not just now, but it goes back to the time when Jews came here and Italians came here and Irish came here around the turn of the century and they weren't welcomed and the laws were created to eliminate just anybody from coming here.
Kai Wright: Thank you, Lenore.
Lenore: Thank you for taking me, I appreciate that.
Kai Wright: Let's go to our next caller who I believe wants to remain anonymous in Providence, Rhode Island welcome to the show.
Kai Wright: What was your experience with displacement?
Anonymous: I understand that you're talking about immigrants coming to the country, but when I heard about being forced to flee your home, what came up for me was domestic intimidation and threatened violence. I think it's one and the same. Immigration is the macro and domestic abuse at home is the micro and just to pair it down to that, that is really all I wanted to say.
Kai Wright: Thank you for that. Elora, on the question of domestic violence, this is one of the things that the Biden administration has done as I understand it correct. They have changed the Trump policy on refugees who have been victims of domestic violence. Can you explain that?
Elora Mukherjee: Sure. That's exactly right, Kai. During the Trump years Attorney General Jeff Sessions issued an attorney general decision called Matter of AB. Matter of AB purported to eliminate asylum protections for survivors of both domestic violence and survivors of gang violence. This, of course, as your caller pointed out affects many, many, many people both domestically and around the world and subsequently Attorney General Garland just this summer has issued an opinion rescinding matter of AB. This allows asylum seekers and those who've survived gang violence to once again, seek protections under US Asylum Law.
Kai Wright: To follow up on something that the first caller, Lenore, was talking about, just this deeper question of like this is actually always been a place that's been hostile to people who come to the border. Do you agree with that?
Elora Mukherjee: I am a law professor, so I have to look at the question from a bit of a more nuanced perspective. I think, yes, the United States has at times been extremely hostile to immigrants Lenore was talking about the exclusion acts, race-based national origin quotas that limited immigrants to the United States based on the country of origin in an effort to protect Western white European, composition of the United States.
There have been times in US history when the United States has been more welcoming of immigrants and asylum seekers than other times. In recent history, the Trump administration was, has been the worst administration in terms of asylum seekers. The Trump administration tried to end asylum in the United States through hundreds of rule changes and policy changes. The Biden administration is making some progress in rescinding those rule changes and promulgating policies toward immigrants that are more favorable.
Just last week as some of you may know, the administration put forth a proposed rule that would enable dreamers, DACA recipients to continue to have protections to stay in the United States. Right now, we are not at a perfect place. I think that there is so far that the United States should go to become a hospitable and welcoming country for asylum seekers, but right now we are at a far better moment than we were during the Trump years.
Kai Wright: I'm talking with Elora Mukherjee who is the Director of Columbia Law School's Immigrant Rights Clinic about this country's past and future attitude towards asylum seekers. We reached a point as a country where we don't even hear people's stories when they show up seeking refuge. Why is that? How are we all complicit in that? Stay with us.
Kousha: Hey, everyone, it's Kousha, I'm a producer. Here is a another voicemail we received from a listener about climate change, which is an episode we covered a couple of weeks ago. We love hearing from you. Keep those voice memos coming. Just email us firstname.lastname@example.org, or hit us up on Twitter, #USofAnxiety. All right, here it is.
Anonymous 2: Hi, thank you so much for taking my call. It was a wonderful show with Bill McKibben who is a hero of mine, but here's where the environmental community falls short to me. The environmental community which I impart must stop giving a free pass to the United States military and all military in Afghanistan. For example, if we just look at it from an environmental point of view, we left to disaster.
When are we going to start holding them accountable? When are the environmental movements going to say, this is part of it, and unite with the peace activists and say the military must cut their emissions. Thank you so much. Bye.
Kai Wright: Welcome back. I'm Kai Wright. This is the United States of Anxiety. We're talking tonight about that awful scene at the US's Southern border a couple of weeks ago. The images of Haitian asylum seekers being chased by border agents on horseback with whips and lassos. The deeper questions this begs about our compassion or lack thereof for people who come to this country seeking refuge. I'm joined by Elora Mukherjee who is the director of Columbia law School's Immigrant Rights Clinic.
Elora, earlier you mentioned Title 42, which is the rule that has been used as the reason for deporting these asylum seekers, not just the Haitian asylum, but many others because of COVID. Can you briefly explain the rule and where we stand now on it remaining in place or not?
Elora Mukherjee: Sure. During the Trump years, in March of 2020, the Trump administration invoked the Title 42 order and that refer of the federal administrative code on public health and cited Title 42 as a legitimate basis for expelling migrants and asylum seekers at the Southern border. Since then, the doctors and medical experts at the centers for disease control and prevention have come out and said that there is actually no public health basis for Title 42. Other medical experts, doctors have come out and said that Title 42 is xenophobia masquerading as a public health measure.
Not withstanding that under both the Trump administration and the Biden administration Title 42 has been invoked as the basis for expelling almost a million people, about 940,000 people since March of 2020. These individuals are trying to cross into the United States and are summarily expelled without being given an opportunity to present the reason that they are scared of returning to their home countries. They don't even have an opportunity to participate in a threshold screening for asylum called a credible fear interview.
Now, the Title 42 order has been challenged by immigrants rights advocates, and about two weeks ago, a federal district court judge in DC named Emmet Sullivan issued an order finding that the Title 42 order is illegal and unlawful and violates both statutes and due process measures that asylum seekers are entitled to.
The judge in recognition of what a sweeping order he issued, it would change how the United States treats asylum seekers throughout the Southern border. Put his order on hold for two weeks to give the Biden administration an opportunity to decide how to respond. The Biden administration almost immediately filed an emergency appeal and just a few days ago on Thursday, the DC circuit court of appeals did not allow the district court judges opinion to go into effect, but instead held on to that order, stayed the order, and the DC circuit court of opinion, it's a brief order and it allows Title 42 to stand for now. There has been argument scheduled in the case for next year. As of today and through next year, Title 42 will stand allowing this administration to continue expelling asylum seekers and other migrants.
Kai Wright: That's where we're at right now in the law. I want to bring in someone who's been responding to the Biden administration's treatment of Haitians asylum seekers, Executive Director of the Office of New Americans of Miami-Dade and 1st generation Haitian American, Krystina François. Krystina, welcome to the show.
Krystina François: Hi, thank you for having me.
Kai Wright: I apologize, Krystina. Our time is tight, but I wanted to check in with you because one of the things I just wanted to hear about is, as you do this work in Miami, as you try to engage and build coalitions, how successful are you in building coalitions with people with non-Haitian migrant communities? How successful has that work been?
Krystina François: I think that we are fortunate in Miami-Dade county to be a community that's 55% immigrant and so there is a general understanding of, or a closer attention is paid to the nuances of immigration policy within the community. I think that many folks have been negatively impacted by Title 42, not just Haitian asylum seekers and so we've been able to build across ethnicities and across countries of origin to say that this is not only disproportionately impacting the Haitian community, but actually impacting our folks from central America, from Africa, and others that are coming to seek refuge in our century.
Kai Wright: It's been successful. You've been able to build power across lines. What are you trying to do with that coalition?
Krystina François: We've been able to engage our local officials to speak out against this practice and to also encourage the administration to protect their right to asylum so we're very fortunate to have a county mayor, many state legislators, as well as federal officials that have appealed to the head of administration to say that we can not continue to use this and that we should be upholding the right to a credible fear interview and that's really the core of our ability to provide asylum.
You can not make a decision on whether or not somebody has a valid claim or not without them being able to speak to an officer and so this perception on the fact that folks are entering the country illegally is a misnomer because they're actually following the process of seeking asylum. You have to physically be in the United States to make that declaration. It's been a great opportunity to educate folks that don't really pay attention to the nuances of the law. To say that there seems to be a disconnect between wanting to have a humane and compassionate immigration system and the practices that we've been seeing this past year.
Kai Wright: I'm sorry to cut you short, Krystina. I hope to talk to you longer but we're getting out of running out of time, but this is an important takeaway idea that we just, the point is we ought to at least be hearing people's cases. Krystina François is Executive Director of the Office of New Americans of Miami-Dade. Thanks for joining us.
Krystina François: Thank you.
Kai Wright: Elora, I'm going to summarize what we've heard. We have a couple of callers that are asking just for time sake, which is basically, okay, so what am I supposed to do? I have no answers about this. I'm not an elected official. I'm not a policymaker but I don't like what's happening at the border in my name. What am I supposed to do about it?
Elora Mukherjee: First of all, you're doing the right thing, which is learning more about the situation at the border. I encourage you to continue learning. I encourage you to speak with your friends, your neighbors, folks in your community, folks in your family, who you may not see eye to eye with on immigration issues, and share what you're learning, share your perspectives.
I also encourage you to speak on it openly and honestly, about how, what we've seen in Del Rio, Texas with Haitian migrants is a manifestation of very cruel anti-Black racism and we need to say it, we need to name it, we need to recognize it because what happened in Del Rio wouldn't likely have happened if the migrants had white skin or lighter skin and so we need to be honest about that.
I also think it's important that everyone listening and everyone who cares, reaches out to your elected officials, your Congress people, and our president, to let them know that you support immigrants, you support asylum seekers and this administration ran on a platform of being able to create a more humane America. Right now we are not seeing that in terms of US immigration policy so please continue to put pressure on your elected officials and let them know what you expect to see in terms of how the United States screens and treats asylum seekers, especially children at the border.
Kai Wright: Elora Mukherjee runs Columbia Law School's Immigrant Rights Clinic. She's been representing asylum seekers and monitoring conditions at detention facilities for 15 years. Elora, thanks for coming on the show.
Elora Mukherjee: Thank you for having me, Kai.
Kai Wright: Thanks to everyone who called and tweeted. I'm sorry we didn't get to a lot of you, but we do really still want to hear from you. Just record a voice memo on your smartphone and send it to me at email@example.com and I mean that. We really do want to hear from you. A lot of times what you send in shapes our ideas for upcoming shows so please do chime in firstname.lastname@example.org.
As we close tonight, a special thank you and farewell to our executive producer, Veralyn Williams. You've heard her wonderful voice on this show many times, and she's helped me think through all kinds of stuff from constitutional law to my, sometimey attitude about Black History Month. She's been a first person corresponded for those stories that just really require a personal touch and she's been a great partner. She's off to do cool things in another shop, which is the circle of life, but we'll miss her, good luck, Veralyn.
United States of Anxiety is a production of WNYC Studios. Our theme music was written by Hannis Brown and performed by the Outer Borough Brass Band, mixing by Jared Paul, Kevin Bristow and Milton Lewis Ruiz were at the boards for the live show. Our team also includes Emily Botein, Regina de Heer, Karen Frillman and Kousha Navidar.
I am Kai Wright, and you can keep in touch with me on Twitter @Kai_Wright and as always, I hope you'll join us for the live version of the show next Sunday, 6:00 PM Eastern. You can stream it at wnyc.org or tell your smart speaker to play WNYC. Thanks for listening. Take care of yourselves.
[00:49:32] [END OF AUDIO]
New York Public Radio transcripts are created on a rush deadline, often by contractors. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of New York Public Radio’s programming is the audio record.