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AG Nessel Joins Coalition Calling on Federal Government to Allow Haitian Refugees to be Heard

LANSING – Attorney General Dana Nessel joined a coalition of 15 attorneys general led by Illinois Attorney General Kwame Raoul and District of Columbia Attorney General Karl Racine in filing a brief related to the treatment of thousands of Haitian refugees who sought aid along the United States’ Southern border. The coalition is calling upon the federal government to allow those refugees to demonstrate the fear of persecution they would receive if forced to return to Haiti. 

The coalition filed an amicus brief in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia calling for Haitian refugees to be treated with dignity and compassion. The attorneys general are also urging the federal government to give Haitian nationals seeking refuge in the United States the same due process other immigrants and refugees receive by assessing each Haitian refugee on a case-by-case basis, rather than rushing the repatriation of Haitian refugees to a country that is recovering from a humanitarian crisis resulting from a devastating earthquake and tropical storm.

“This brief reiterates the concern expressed last year in the letter my colleagues and I sent to the president and the Homeland Security Secretary regarding the treatment of Haitian refugees," Nessel said. "These Haitian nationals have been through enough trauma. I gladly join my colleagues again in asserting that Haitians arriving on our borders deserve to have their claims for asylum heard by our government rather than being sent back to a country in crisis without fair consideration of their plight.”

In 2021, thousands of refugees fled Haiti following a presidential assassination and the resulting political upheaval, as well as a massive earthquake that destroyed critical infrastructure. As refugees reached Del Rio, Texas, images began to emerge showing U.S. immigration officials using inhumane tactics, including threats and physical assault from mounted Border Patrol officers on horseback.

In the brief, the coalition cites the Department of Homeland Security’s investigation into treatment of Haitian migrants, which found that the Customs and Border Patrol agency used unnecessary force against refugees attempting to reenter the U.S. with food. Given those findings, the coalition argues that Haitian refugees seeking asylum or other humanitarian assistance in the United States should be given the opportunity to demonstrate their fear of persecution or torture if forced to return to Haiti. The coalition asserts that Haitian refugees deserve the same due process as other individuals attempting to flee to the United States, and Haitian refugees’ circumstances should be assessed on a case-by-case basis. 

However, according to the allegations in the case, the federal government deprived thousands of Haitian refugees of their right to individual, fact-based assessments by continuing a mass expulsion policy that forced many Haitian refugees seeking asylum or humanitarian assistance to return to Haiti. The attorneys general point out that the mass deportations deprived states of the valuable contributions refugees make. The brief also states that by subjecting refugees with strong asylum claims to the additional harm seen in Texas, including physical and emotional abuse, the government makes it more difficult for states to support refugees’ health, education, and well-being when they relocate into U.S. communities. 

Attorneys General Raoul and Racine are leading the coalition in urging the federal government to treat Haitian refugees humanely as they seek asylum in the U.S., which means ensuring that they have a fair opportunity to pursue their asylum claims free from physical and verbal abuse.

Joining Attorneys General Raoul, Racine and AG Nessel in filing the brief supporting the plaintiffs in Haitian Bridge Alliance v. Joseph R. Biden are the attorneys general of Connecticut, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Nevada, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, Oregon, Rhode Island, Vermont, and Washington.

The brief can be found here.