The Biden administration’s condemnation of the spectacularly racist flogging by its border patrol agents, with horse-riding reins, of Haitians going up the bank, while tripling the less spectacular but equally racist and illegal expulsions of asylum seekers. Haitian asylum under the pretext of fighting COVID-19, shows a disturbing gap between the ideals displayed by the administration and its practices.
Worse yet, the administration is abandoning its principles – and its friends – in a doomed effort to appease extremist voices.
Deportations use Title 42 of the U.S. Code, which authorizes the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to control entry into the United States in order to protect against communicable diseases. Trump’s immigration adviser Stephen Miller developed the policy as part of his efforts to limit immigration using any tool available. Public health was a pretext; Miller initially tried – unsuccessfully – to invoke Title 42 for mumps and flu. COVID-19 provided the hook it needed.
The Biden administration knows that Title 42 evictions are illegal and do not combat COVID-19. When the Trump administration implemented the policy, then-senator Kamala Harris co-sponsored a bill concluding that deportations “violate long-standing protections imposed by Congress for asylum seekers.” and “do not protect public health”.
Leading public health officials have consistently rejected Title 42 as a public health measure, from CDC scientists’ refusal to implement Miller’s plan last year, to Dr.Anthony Fauci’s Oct. 3 statement – Chief Medical Advisor to the President – that Title 42 “is not the solution to an epidemic.
The main legal and diplomatic officials agree. On September 22, Ambassador Daniel Foote resigned his post as US special envoy to Haiti, citing, among other reasons, the “inhuman and counterproductive decision to expel thousands of Haitians”. State Department Legal Counsel Harold Koh – who has served in four administrations – stepped down on October 2, calling the Title 42 deportations “illegal” and “inhumane.”
The continued use of Title 42 costs the administration political support, especially among black voters whose participation made the Biden administration possible, and black members of Congress and advocacy organizations. But the Biden administration is ready to pay that price and to make the 7,500 Haitians expelled since the whiplash pay – in order to meet the needs of a constituency that will never vote for him, but which successfully blocks the reform of immigration for decades.
Stephen Miller’s immigration policies came “almost verbatim” from organizations founded by John Tanton, a eugenicist and white supremacist, in particular the Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR), NumbersUSA and the Center for Immigration Studies (CIS). Tanton believed that “for Euro-American society and culture to persist, we need a Euro-American majority and a clear majority on top of that.” Tanton’s organizations do not use this overt language of white supremacy, but their actions almost invariably support a white majority.
Stephen Miller has left the White House, but he and other heirs to Tanton’s legacy still dominate our immigration discussions, as they have for more than two decades, preventing Congressional Republican collaboration on reform. immigration and waging what President Biden calls “our grueling war on immigration.”
When the Biden administration reportedly planned to end the Title 42 evictions in June, Tanton Network groups attacked, leading the administration to announce an indefinite extension of the policy.
The Tanton heirs are currently generating hysteria over the southern border to derail popular and bipartisan bills on DREAMers and farm workers. The bills were passed by the House of Representatives, but pressure from the Tanton group prevented the 10 Republican votes needed to overcome an obstruction in the Senate. Senate Democrats tried to sidestep the filibuster by including immigration reforms in the spending bill, but Senatorial MP Elizabeth MacDonough, a non-partisan Senate rules arbiter, blocked it.
Democrats promise to find another way to include immigration provisions in the spending bill. But if they are successful, they will only produce a narrow and temporary exception to the rule of the Tanton Network’s grip on US immigration policy. The only way for political leaders of both parties to move forward with the immigration reforms America voters want and need in the economy is to reject the influence of white supremacist organizations.
Appeasing them just doesn’t work: Immigration reform initiatives under Presidents Bill Clinton, George W Bush, and Barack Obama all included compromises to senators fearing extremist attacks, but all were nonetheless torpedoed by Tanton groups.
If images of white border guards on horseback whipping Haitians as they stumble out of the Rio Grande don’t force us to identify and root out white supremacist influence in our immigration policy, nothing will. The Biden administration can take the lead by upholding the law rather than considering racists and ending Title 42 evictions. But the rest of us also need to step up. The media should correctly identify white supremacists and white supremacist talking points, even when in disguise. Voters from both parties must stand behind their representatives when they support common sense immigration reform.
We must all be open to discussing a wide range of views on immigration, but with zero tolerance for advocacy based explicitly or implicitly on white supremacy.
The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial position of Al Jazeera.