San Antonio immigration groups and activists join national call to end Title 42 deportations at the border

Debra Ponce was so upset by the images of border patrol officers on horseback grabbing and chasing Haitian immigrants at the border that she could not sleep the night they circulated on media and social media.

A border patrol agent appears to be using his reins like a whip in one of the photos taken on September 19.

It was an image that fueled her, and many other activists, who called for an end to Title 42 evictions during a Thursday night rally on the steps of the U.S. courthouse John H. Wood Jr. downtown.

“They had whips. I don’t care what they want to call them, ”Ponce said of the Border Patrol officers on horseback. “We (the organizers) were all in shock because we never thought this would happen on American soil.”

The photos sparked an investigation by the Department of Homeland Security.

Ponce is an organizer of the Center for Education and Legal Services for Refugees and Immigrants, better known as RAICES. The non-profit organization that promotes free and low-cost legal services to immigrants, led the rally of around 30 people.

It was organized as part of a national day of protest calling on President Joe Biden to end what activists have called a “racist” public health order that targets only black and brown immigrants. Events were planned in at least a dozen cities, including Austin, according to the Haitian Bridge Alliance, which helped organize the day of protest.

The order, enacted in March 2020, allows the United States to quickly deport migrants who come from a country known to have COVID-19 under Title 42, referring to a section of the United States public health code.

In San Antonio, artists, activists and a lawyer spoke about the inhumane conditions thousands of Haitian migrants faced as they sought asylum in the United States last month.

Felicia Rangel-Samponaro, co-director of The Sidewalk School, said many Haitian children and families in Mexico are at risk of cartel abduction or even sexual assault as they walk between campuses.

The non-profit organization she runs offers education, COVID-19 testing and other aids to children while they await their asylum hearing. This year marks its third year of offering such services.

“You will never see a white immigrant among the camps,” Rangel-Samponaro said. “If you’re black and brown, you live in dirt.”

Ananda Tomas, an organizer of Black Lives Matter, said many families did not have access to formula or a roof over their heads.

Thousands more have been forcibly evicted “to a country that does not have the infrastructure to manage them,” Thomas said.

She called on the Black Lives Matters movement to include black immigrants in their fight against systemic racism.

Ponce said two local activists were busy providing supplies to asylum seekers who remain in Mexico. She added that they had told her that as of Thursday, many families did not have a place of safety following the damage caused by Hurricane Pamela.

Ponce said she hopes U.S. leaders will soon have better policies in place, as more immigrants are expected to arrive at the border to seek asylum.

“If they know they’re coming, be ready. Consider welcoming them with dignity, ”said Ponce. “We are America, why can’t we do this? “

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