BOSTON (AP) — A civil rights group filed a federal complaint Monday on behalf of a Haitian American group in Boston over the treatment of nearly 50 Haitians who recently arrived in Massachusetts as part of a wave of migrants from the struggling Caribbean nation.
Lawyers for Civil Rights and Haitian-Americans United say in their complaint to the U.S. Department of Homeland Security that the 48 Haitians they represent were detained in overcrowded conditions despite the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.
The organizations said the migrants were also denied access to medical care, food, water and hygiene and sanitation products while confined in a makeshift outdoor encampment under a bridge near Del Rio, Texas.
The Haitians were then denied access to showers, blankets or beds when transferred to detention facilities, with many sleeping on concrete floors with no covers, the organizations said.
Lawyers for Civil Rights and Haitian-Americans United said Homeland Security needs to investigate “how racial animus and national origin discrimination” resulted in poor conditions at the border.
The organizations also called for policy changes to ensure that Haitian immigrants are treated lawfully, including reducing overcrowded conditions for detainees, improving access to food and other basic needs, providing Haitian Creole translators and requiring anti-bias training for border officials.
The Boston area is home to the third largest community of Haitians in the country, after New York City and Miami.
Dr. Geralde Gabeau, a member of Haitian-Americans United, said Massachusetts non-profit organizations have been overwhelmed as more than 100 Haitian families recently released from the border have arrived.
“We need the federal government to support them and treat them humanely,” she said in a written statement. “They are traumatized. They need food, shelter, medical assistance, and humanitarian parole.”
Homeland Security spokespersons didn’t respond to an email seeking comment on the complaint, which was filed with the department’s Office for Civil Rights and Civil Liberties and the agency’s Inspector General.