A coalition of advocacy groups joined in protest in Downtown El Paso, condemning the mass expulsion of Haitian migrants and the treatment of migrants in Del Rio by the United States Border Patrol. (René Kladzyk/El Paso Matters)

A coalition of El Paso advocacy groups and leaders held a “March for Our Dignity” protest through Downtown Thursday afternoon, condemning the treatment of Haitian migrants by the Border Patrol and demanding a humane process for Haitians to seek asylum in the United States.

More than 50 protesters gathered at San Jacinto Plaza, bearing signs and banners that read “END TITLE 42,” and “Welcome with Dignity,” referring to the mass expulsion of Haitian migrants back to that country. 

The protesters walked through Downtown El Paso toward the base of the Stanton Street international bridge, where a press conference was held with speakers including Fernando Garcia of the Border Network for Human Rights, Pastor Michael Grady of the Prince of Peace Christian Fellowship, El Paso city Rep. Alexandra Annello and Deacon Edroud Jean of the Catholic Diocese of El Paso. 

“Now we have Afghan refugees at Fort Bliss, we have Haitian migrants who are being brought here to be processed back to a country where thousands of people do not have basic amenities due to a natural disaster,” Annello said at the press conference. “How many people have to knock at our door before we come to the table with comprehensive immigration reform?”

Following the arrival of thousands of Haitian migrants to Del Rio, Texas, El Paso County Judge Samaniego said that 500 Haitians are being flown to El Paso each day to be processed by federal officials prior to being expelled to Haiti. Nearly 10,000 Afghan nationals are being housed on Fort Bliss after they fled that country last month. The exodus followed the United States’ withdrawal of its military in Afghanistan after two decades of war.

Haitian migrants are being expelled through Title 42, a clause of the 1944 Public Health Services Law that was rarely implemented until it became widely used during the Trump administration in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. A Biden health advisor said in March that there is no evidence that migrants have contributed to the spread of COVID-19 in the United States, despite widespread claims to the contrary by Republican leaders, including Texas Gov. Greg Abbott.

The March for our dignity traveled down El Paso Street toward the Paso del Norte Bridge. (René Kladzyk/El Paso Matters)

Nonetheless, the Biden administration has continued to use Title 42 to rapidly expel migrants, amid widespread outcry by immigration advocates who argue the practice violates the right to seek asylum and contributes to human rights atrocities south of the border. A federal court recently ruled that the government must stop expelling migrant families using Title 42 in a lawsuit brought by the American Civil Liberties Union. The ruling doesn’t take effect until Sept. 30, and the Biden administration has filed an appeal

“The administration continues to adhere to its Title 42 policy … as a way to co-opt the pandemic to end access to asylum at our border,” Shaw Drake of the ACLU said at the protest. “Instead of accepting that (federal court) order, accepting what is clear and blatant, … the Biden administration made a choice to defend their policy, to harm families and return them to danger.”

Cover photo: A coalition of advocacy groups joined in protest in Downtown El Paso, condemning the mass expulsion of Haitian migrants and the treatment of migrants in Del Rio by the Border Patrol. (René Kladzyk/El Paso Matters)

René Kladzyk is a freelance reporter who also performs music as Ziemba. Follow her on Twitter @ziembavision.