Does anyone remember the movie 2012, the apocalyptic flick starring Woody Harrelson and depicting the end of the world? I certainly do, though personally, I have always found the whole “apocalypse” genre a bit silly. When I, as a somewhat cynical teen, heard the Mayans said the world would end in 2012, I laughed it off. Clearly, I thought, what were the odds that, within a year, humanity as we know it would collapse or reach a state of chaos? Perhaps I shouldn’t have been so skeptical; would it not be possible for a dyslexic Mayan to have accidentally written 2012 instead of what he intended to write, 2021? This year (and the year preceding it) could be described as difficult, to say the least, and virtually every part of the world has been affected. All terrible, I think to myself, but nothing catastrophic, per se. What more could a country have to experience to face complete chaos? Unfortunately, more recent news has brought our attention to the border; Haitian migrants were detained by border patrol, and a now-viral image shows Haitian migrants appearing to be whipped by a border officer on a horse. This leaves us with a question: what exactly happened in Haiti that is causing this humanitarian crisis? And how effective has the Biden administration’s response been?
Perhaps you could be forgiven for being wrapped up in the current pandemic and at-home problems for forgetting that we, in the United States, are somewhat lucky (operatively speaking, anyway). Indeed, Haiti, out of many places in the world, has been undergoing severe strife since the start of the pandemic, to the point that it sounds like the script of a tragedy. Firstly, according to Human Rights Watch, the elimination of fuel subsidies by the government led to widespread unrest throughout the country. Combined with corruption scandals that directly implicated the Haitian government and its president, Jovenel Moïse, much of the Haitian public became incensed with the turmoil. This, in conjunction with reported gang violence, abuse of power by authorities, and displacement of people from natural disasters, led to the worst outbreaks of violence in Haiti since 1986, according to The United Nations Integrated Office in Haiti. While reports of coronavirus have been surprisingly low in the country, with Haiti having a mass rollout of vaccines through the global initiative COVAX, instability would characterize the civil sphere with the assassination of President Moïse. Not only were the circumstances of this assassination bizarre (apparently a Florida-based doctor was the mastermind of the plot, and wanted to take Moïse’s place as president), but this also triggered a succession crisis for who would succeed the deceased president as head of state. The assassination also triggered a wave of violence, with gang leader Jimmy Cherizier vowing reprisal for the president’s death. Needless to say, if a country could be depicted in complete chaos and uncertainty, then, unfortunately, the circumstances in Haiti paint a grim picture.
It should come as no surprise that, given the situation, many Haitians are opting to take their chances and flee to the United States, with thousands of migrants arriving at the southern border. This led to what could be expected: border patrol moving in and securing many that attempted to cross illegally into the United States. In a now-viral image, a border patrol officer is seen on horseback holding his reins and attempting to detain a migrant crossing the border. According to Vice News, the migrants were being whipped with the reins of the horse. The image almost instantly sparked backlash amongst left-wing circles in the United States, with some claiming that the officer was whipping the migrants with the reins of the horse. Of course, this claim was proven false; even various left-wing fact-checkers, such as Snopes, proved that such claims about the photo were wrong. Nonetheless, minor inconveniences such as facts would not stop those in the Biden administration from making a backwards policy decision. While correctly pointing out that the situation occurring at the border is tragic and that something should be done, White House press secretary Jen Psaki vowed that the preceding events would cause an investigation and result in…the removal of horses in border patrol. Clearly, this was all Seabiscuit’s fault! Nevermind the events leading up to migrants arriving at the border, and nevermind the lack of action by the Biden administration in helping address the problem. Clearly, this is simply the fault of horse usage, not minimal understanding as to the troubles that plague Haiti and a bureaucratic immigration process that forces many to take their chances and cross illegally into the United States.
Sarcasm aside, the situation occurring both at the border and in Haiti is truly tragic, and would likely constitute a humanitarian crisis. Biden arrived in office claiming that he would reverse what he saw as Trump’s backwards immigration policies, yet has instead made use of such policies by deporting many of the Haitian migrants back to Haiti. Inane policy prescriptions such as the banning of horses by border patrol is not only counterproductive, but simply pushes the root causes of the crisis down the road. Rather, the Biden administration needs to saddle up and propose a rational fix to the situation occurring at the southern border as well as address why so many are fleeing Haiti. The Biden administration could have addressed the situation in a number of ways: offering asylum to the migrants, dismantling some of the unnecessary bureaucracy associated with immigration, or even foreign aid to Haiti. Are these ideas foolproof fixes to the crisis? Maybe, maybe not, but it would at least be SOMETHING mildly productive. Instead, the Biden administration responds, “Neigh, just ban horses.” Simply put, the Biden administration needs to quit horsing around and find an actual productive solution to the crisis, instead of making ridiculous policy proposals that serve only to distract from the real issue at hand.