Ibrahim Hirsi, The Nation

The migrants whose pictures flooded the Internet were among thousands of Haitian asylum seekers attempting to restart their lives in the United States. But federal patrol agents, wearing chaps and cowboy hats, confronted them with horses and reins—a tactic Vice President Kamala Harris said evokes images of slavery.

President Joe Biden, for his part, called the officers’ treatment of Haitian migrants “outrageous,” vowing that those involved in the reported abuse will face the consequences of their actions. “It sends the wrong message around the world and sends the wrong message at home,” he told reporters of the mistreatment. “It’s simply not who we are.”

But is this really the first time that federal agents hunted down and rounded up Haitian migrants trying to seek asylum in the United States?

Not at all, say experts of the Haitian diaspora and immigration scholars. Since the early 1960s, when the first known group of Haitian “boat people” landed in South Florida, it didn’t take long for immigration authorities to round them up and send them back to their impoverished island. Immigrant agents repeated that response in the decades that followed, irrespective of the political affiliation of the man occupying the Oval Office.

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