The world was horrified earlier this year to see US Border Patrol’s horrific treatment of asylum-seeking Haitian refugees fleeing for their lives. Even though the news cycle has moved on, the nightmare for migrants and refugees is still very much ongoing, and the US deportation machine under President Biden is moving at a monstrous pace. In this urgent, unscheduled episode of Rattling the Bars, TRNN Executive Producer Eddie Conway speaks with organizer Selinda Guerrero about an upcoming protest action at an ICE detention facility in New Mexico and about the need for people to hold Democratic and Republican administrations accountable for their inhumane immigration policies. Selinda Guerrero is the New Mexico field organizer at Forward Together, the national action coordinator for Save the Kids, and she leads the New Mexico chapter of Millions for Prisoners, a national movement to abolish the loophole in the 13th Amendment that allows for the continuation of slavery through the criminal justice system.
Pre-Production/Studio/Post Production: Cameron Granadino
Eddie Conway: Welcome to this episode of Rattling the Bars. Haitians have been trying to come into America, like everybody else from around the world. They have been given a bad deal by President Biden, following Trump’s lead. Here today we have activist Selinda Guerrero, who’s following this, and is going to give us an update on what’s happening with the Haitians. Selinda, thanks for joining me.
Selinda Guerrero: Thank you so much for having me on today. I am so grateful for this space. We had been chatting about how much mainstream media has an impact on what we see and what we know about what’s going on. And people were up in arms, and everybody understood how critical the crisis was at the border when they saw the images in Del Rio of border patrol on horseback whipping Haitian immigrants who were just trying to get food. And they’re here seeking refuge. They’re here seeking asylum because the United States politics has destabilized Haiti for generations.
And so, we understand why Haitian folks need immigration. We understand why they’re here as asylum seekers. And we understand the journey that they’ve come through just to bring their families and what they’ve risked to come across Central America, through Mexico, and to be at the borders of the United States, and what that means. And I know folks… Unless you do work around immigration, I think a lot of folks don’t understand that the only way that you can come here as a refugee seeking asylum is to present yourself at the border. There’s no way to be in Haiti and file paperwork to the United States and say, I want to seek asylum. And so, I think that’s something people can’t wrap their [head around], why are they flooding the border? Well, they’re flooding the border because they’re refugees seeking asylum and this is the only legal way that the United States has established for them to do this.
Eddie Conway: Where are they now? Because we lost track of them.
Selinda Guerrero: Yeah, they were in Del Rio and most of them got bused across the South. Both Louisiana received some and a tremendous amount of them arrived here in New Mexico. And they’re in our federal detention centers here in New Mexico, in Torrance County, which is a prison that had been shut down in 2017 because of conditions, and then got a new renewed contract for immigrant detention. And this is where many of our Haitian immigrant folks are right now. And these are our… When we think about the uprising that has happened around Mexican, Honduras, South American immigration, children in cages, and all of the work that’s been done over these years to combat these bad immigration practices. What we see now is that once those images dropped from mainstream media folks forgot about our Haitian immigrants who are in detention right now and who are being deported at rates that we’ve never seen before.
They are being deported with no legal representation, no legal discussions at all. They don’t even get to talk to a lawyer before going to court. And there are no translators being admitted into court. They have no translation. Most of them speak Creole. And so they’re here in a courtroom and don’t have the language of asylum to even say that for themselves. And so, this practice needs to be stopped immediately because there’s tremendous amounts of harm happening. And what we always know about this structure is how anti-Black it is. And what we see right now is, we see that our Haitian relatives are being treated with tremendous anti-Blackness. In New Mexico, we are only 3% Black here. And so, when we have massive amounts of Black people who are being brought into immigrant detention centers and who are being treated so poorly and deported at rates that we’ve never seen before, that our immigration lawyers are throwing their hands up screaming something’s got to give because it is such a crisis.
We have to be able to spread the word. So we are just calling out for folks anywhere who are hearing this, please join us. We have to protect our Haitian relatives right now. We have a duty to stand up for each other and we have to rally behind them and stop these immigration practices that are being used right now by this Biden administration. These are Trump tactics that we all stood against over the last four years, who we all said – Especially I’m calling out you progressive Democrats who said, we don’t stand with that. We want something different. Let’s hold accountable right now the administration that’s in place that is using the same tactics. And so, we will be doing direct action at Torrance Detention Center in solidarity with our Haitian relatives who are being held there at the federal immigration detention center here up in Torrance, New Mexico.
Eddie Conway: And how do people get in contact with your organization to give support or receive some instructions in terms of what they can do?
Selinda Guerrero: Yes. We would love to organize with you to do actions in your own cities and states across the United States and across the world. We know that the reach is broad, and we know that we have folks in solidarity with us across the world. So you can reach us at millionsforprisonersnm, all spelled out, firstname.lastname@example.org, if you want to connect with us directly to be in solidarity with organizing with us. You can also find us on social media, on Facebook Free Them All, that’s Free Them All NM at Facebook. That’s on Facebook. And you can find us @IWOC on Instagram and on Twitter. IWOC, I-W-O-C.
Eddie Conway: Okay, Selinda, thank you.
Selinda Guerrero: Thank you so much for helping us get this out.
Eddie Conway: Okay. And thank you for joining this episode of Rattling the Bars.