Clip of Biden saying it wouldn’t matter if Haiti sunk into the sea reemerges amid Del Rio scandal

Biden administration is facing backlash for forcefully deporting thousands of Haitian migrants

Alisha Rahaman Sarkar
Thursday 23 September 2021 16:07
comments
Clip of Biden saying it wouldn’t matter if Haiti ‘sunk into the sea’ reemerges

A three-decade-old clip of US president Joe Biden saying “it would not matter” if Haiti sunk has resurfaced as his administration faces a backlash for its handling of the influx of Haitian migrants.

The remarks were made by Mr Biden in 1994 during an interview with PBS when he was the senator for Delaware.

Mr Biden was asked if then president Bill Clinton would invade Haiti following the 1991 military coup against democratically-elected president Jean-Bertrand Aristide.

During the conversation, he said: “If Haiti, a god awful thing to say, if Haiti just quietly sunk into the Caribbean or rose up 300 feet, it wouldn't matter a whole lot in terms of our interest.”

This video has been around for years but it was widely shared this week after thousands of Haitian migrants encamped in the town of Del Rio near the US-Mexico border were forcefully sent back to their homeland.

The White House faced backlash after videos showed horse-mounted border protection officers manoeuvring and whipping migrants attempting to cross the border, a tactic compared to America’s dark history of slave patrols.

A United States Border Patrol agent on horseback tries to stop a Haitian migrant from entering an encampment on the banks of the Rio Grande near the Acuna Del Rio International Bridge in Del Rio, Texas, on 19 September

Democrats have called on the Biden administration to end the use of Trump-era immigration rule “Title 42” to deport migrants without giving them an opportunity to seek asylum. Despite the criticism, the administration has deported over 12,000 Haitians assembled at the border.

The deportation comes at a time when Haiti is struggling to recover from the 7 July assassination of President Jovenel Moise and a 7.2-magnitude earthquake in mid-August that killed more than 2,200 people.

But at the same time, many Haitian migrants camped in the border town of Del Rio are being released into the US in an effort to empty the camp under the International Bridge between Mexico and the US.

There were more than 14,000 people in the camp over the weekend. On Tuesday, Texas governor Greg Abbott, during a visit to Del Rio, said the most recent tally at the camp was about 8,600 migrants.

The criteria for deciding who is flown back to Haiti and who is released in the US are unclear, although officials maintained that single adults were a priority for expulsion flights. Those considered vulnerable, including pregnant women, families with young children and those with medical issues are more likely to be released in the US.

Lashing out at the treatment of migrants, vice president Kamala Harris on Tuesday said: “What I saw depicted about those individuals on horseback, treating human beings the way they were was horrible. I fully support what is happening right now, which is a thorough investigation into what is going on there, but human beings should never be treated that way, and I’m deeply troubled about it.”

Ms Harris added that she would be in touch with Homeland Security secretary Alejandro Mayorkas.

On Monday, Mr Mayorkas had warned people from entering the US illegally saying: “If you come to the United States illegally, you will be returned, your journey will not succeed, and you will be endangering your life and your family’s life.”

Republicans have also sharpened their attack on the president, accusing him of letting Haitians believe they would get asylum in the US.

Join our new commenting forum

Join thought-provoking conversations, follow other Independent readers and see their replies

View comments