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John Oliver condemns Biden administration’s ‘despicable’ treatment of Haitian migrants

A man gesturing in a suit
John Oliver speaks during a 2018 event for HBO’s “Last Week Tonight” in Beverly Hills.
(Richard Shotwell / Invision/Associated Press)

“Last Week Tonight” host John Oliver has joined the chorus of advocates condemning the Biden administration’s treatment of Haitian migrants at the southern border after photos surfaced of U.S. Border Patrol agents on horseback appearing to swing their reins like whips.

During Sunday’s episode of the Emmy-winning HBO program, Oliver denounced the harrowing scene at the border, as well as the White House’s reaction to the resulting images — which President Biden and Press Secretary Jen Psaki deemed unrepresentative of “who we are” as a nation.

“Saying, ‘This is not who we are’ about white people chasing Black people on horses is a bit of a stretch,” Oliver said.

“Historically, [the United States has] been ‘yes and-ing’ that idea since 1619. If you listed the top three things that make America America, it’d be regional sandwich differences, flyovers at halftime and white people chasing Black people while on horseback. I’m not saying that’s what made America great — just what made America, America.”

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A letter sent to President Biden on Wednesday criticized the White House’s immigration policies for inflicting “cruelty on Black, Brown and Indigenous immigrant communities.”

The British American comedian also criticized the Biden administration’s larger response to an increase in Haitian migrants following a deadly earthquake and ongoing political unrest in the Caribbean country fueled by the recent assassination of its president.

Over the last week, more than 2,000 migrants have been forced to return to Haiti, and more than 12,000 others were released into the United States only to be placed in expulsion proceedings. As of Friday, an additional 5,000 Haitians were being processed by the Department of Homeland Security.

“As for ‘This is not who the Biden-Harris administration is’ — are you absolutely sure about that?” Oliver said. “Because, from an immigration standpoint, there’s not a ton of evidence that you are anything else.

“This administration’s record on immigration, particularly on the southern border, has been deeply underwhelming. ... It’s not great when our process when deciding who gets released and who gets expelled is as haphazard as the process of finding the new host of ‘Jeopardy!’”

Few groups have endured a less enthusiastic reception than Haitians, despite the pivotal role that the U.S. has often played in spurring them to leave home.

To underscore his point, Oliver presented footage of one Haitian migrant who recalled being chained by his “hands, feet and waist” on the plane back to Haiti, where he and others were allegedly unshackled “so the journalists wouldn’t see what they did.”

“That is despicable,” Oliver continued. “I would love to know who made the PR judgment that showing Haitians in chains was unacceptable but charging them on horseback was A-OK, because that person clearly knows they’re going to hell, but I’m not sure they grasp just how deep.

“It feels that the Biden administration is far more focused on seeming better when it comes to immigration than actually being better.”

The U.S. has expelled some 2,000 migrants to Haiti this week via more than 17 flights, with several more scheduled in upcoming days.

In the aftermath of U.S. authorities’ hostile behavior toward Haitians seeking refuge at the southern border, Daniel Foote, the U.S. special envoy to Haiti, resigned, and the use of horse patrols near the camp in Del Rio, Texas, was suspended.

“Are you implying it was all the horses’ fault?” Oliver quipped. “The Biden administration promised a big shift when it comes to how we treat migrants at the border. But eight months in, where is it?

“We’re currently sending vulnerable people back into harm’s way, and it is past time for this administration to stop simply telling people who we are and start f— showing them.”


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