Biden administration’s proposal to send Haitian migrants to Guantánamo Bay would repeat a racist and xenophobic past, immigration advocates say.

by Alexandra Martinez, Prism

Protestors wear orange jumpsuits and black hoods at a Guantanamo Bay protest

“We know that there is an epidemic of cholera that’s rising in the country,” said Tessa Petit, executive director of Florida Immigrant Coalition. “We know that there are a lot of safety issues. Last Sunday, 17 people were killed by gangs, and that was one incident. My concern is, why is it that the country’s conditions are not taken into consideration to justify humanitarian parole for Haitians?”

If the plan takes place, it would not be the first time the U.S. sent Haitian migrants to the Migrant Operations Center on Guantánamo Bay. While not part of the notorious prison that incarcerated and tortured hundreds of Muslim men at the height of the U.S. invasion of Iraq and Afghanistan, the center has a history of mistreating migrants, especially Haitians. In 1991, over 32,000 Haitian migrants fled Haiti after a military dictatorship overthrew President Jean-Bertrand Aristide. Migrants were taken to Guantánamo Bay to pre-screen their asylum claims. but those who were detained had “no substantive rights” and were punished with solitary confinement when they protested the camp’s poor conditions. According to the Guantánamo Memory Project, women underwent humiliating physical exams and were forced to sleep on the ground like animals, and those who tested positive for HIV were quarantined in a part of the facility called Camp Bulkeley. There, refugees also experienced poor living conditions, such as rotten food and coerced medical testing, and were severely beaten when they demanded information on their seemingly indefinite detainment. Migrants were eventually released when Judge Sterling Johnson Jr. ordered the camp’s closure in 1993, ruling it unconstitutional and describing it as an “HIV prison camp.”

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