A crowd of nearly 100 gathered near the stone steps of a Mattapan church on Sunday afternoon, calling on the Biden government to end the deportation of Haitian immigrants ahead of the unrest of hurricanes, earthquakes and the assassination of their president ravaged land flee over the summer.
Organized by Haitian Americans United and its partner organizations, the rally brought together religious leaders, advocates, local politicians and community members who are committed to helping Haiti Immigrants looking for a better life in the United States.
“Today is a call to action, not only to call on the Biden administration to stop the deportations, but that you are all ambassadors here and tell the stories of the people who are here with us,” said Geralde Gabeau, Executive Director of the Immigrant Family Services Institute told the crowd at Our Lady of Mount Carmel Church on Blue Hill Avenue.
Gabeau urged people to open their doors, their churches, their shops to help the newcomers who are trying to understand the immigration process and eventually become legal citizens. Many, she said, don’t speak English.
“They need help, they need support, they need shelter, they need food and clothing,” she said. “We have to show the Biden administration that we can do better.”
Some Haitians who had crossed the southern border in the past few weeks have arrived in Boston, she said.
Michelet, 32, who refused to give his last name out of concerns for his family’s safety, said he crossed the Rio Grande to Texas with his pregnant wife and 6-year-old daughter last month.
He said his wife was seriously ill towards the end of their hike, which began in Chile last summer after they fled Haiti in 2017, and is now in intensive care in a Boston hospital.
“We were hoping that once we got here things would get better,” Michelet said as Gabeau translated into Haitian Creole. “Instead of getting better, it got worse.”
Michelet’s family is one of many looking for a stable life in the United States. Thousands were turned away by US officials at the border with Mexico and many were deported to Haiti.
Gabeau said stories like Michelet’s need to be told to encourage more people to come forward and help.
“We have to share their stories because people don’t understand what’s going on and how people are being treated,” she said.
Rev. Dieufort Fleurissaint, who works with Haitian Americans United, condemned the deportations as inhuman and said US officials were sending Haitians back to “a country contaminated with gang cells.”
“Forcing people to return under these circumstances puts their lives at risk, and it is unjustifiable,” he said.
Protesters at the rally called for more humane treatment of people trying to cross the southern border, where photos of border guards driving groups of migrants along the Rio Grande last month sparked shouts condemning Biden’s handling of the crisis.
When the speeches and prayers ended, Gabeau led the crowd in chants shouting “Haitian Lives Matter,” and they marched south along Blue Hill Avenue to the corner of River Street. Several drivers honked their horns as they passed the demonstrators, and some waved small Haitian flags in front of their car windows.
Michel Denis, who said he had relatives in the Port-au-Prince neighborhood of Bel Air, described hearing gunshots in the background while talking to his cousin on the phone. He repeated Fleurissaint’s words that anyone who crosses the border deserves due process and should not be sent back immediately.
“You can’t deport her without going to a judge,” he said.