‘It’s horrific’: 1st Haitian American to hold office in RI reacts to recent footage from the border

US & World

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) — The images and videos coming from the United States/Mexico border have been top of mind for Providence City Councilwoman Nirva LaFortune.

The footage, which has prompted the Department of Homeland Security to launch an investigation into the incident, shows border patrol agents on horseback aggressively dispersing Haitian migrants.

In a statement issued Monday, the Department of Homeland Security said it’s reviewing the footage.

“The footage is extremely troubling and the facts learned from the full investigation, which will be conducted swiftly, will define the appropriate disciplinary actions to be taken,” the statement reads. “We are committed to processing migrants in a safe, orderly and humane way. We can and must do this in a way that ensures the safety and dignity of migrants.”

Secretary of Homeland Security Alejandro Mayorkas said they are addressing the situation with “tremendous speed,” adding that they will not tolerate the mistreatment of migrants.

Being from Haiti herself, LaFortune said the footage is especially difficult for her to watch.

“It’s horrific what we are seeing, it’s horrific,” LaFortune said.

LaFortune is the first-ever Haitian American to hold elected office in Rhode Island, and has been representing Providence’s Ward 3 since 2017.

“I think for me, why it’s so personal, is because my parents left Haiti to escape political unrest,” she said. “I was separated from my family, and I joined them later on … But again, this story, this immigration story isn’t unique to just Haitians. It’s a story many immigrants throughout our city have experienced.”

LaFortune said federal lawmakers should be doing more to ensure all migrants are treated with dignity and respect.

“These are migrants who have left their homes, they’ve left everything behind seeking opportunity,” LaFortune said. “If there is a process to seek asylum, that process should be afforded to them as well.”

LaFortune is urging her constituents to reach out to federal lawmakers and demand they do more for those seeking a better life.

“Ask them to speak up about this,” she said. “Not only to push for an investigation … but also to push for an equitable immigration progress for these Haitian Immigrants.” 

Reps. David Cicilline and Jim Langevin have already expressed their concerns over how migrants are being treated.

Langevin said he’s “appalled” by what’s going on at the border.

“This kind of behavior is unacceptable, and it can’t be tolerated,” he said.

Cicilline said he fully supports the Department of Homeland Security’s investigation into the “innapropriate actions of these border agents.”

Roughly 1,000 Haitian migrants have already been deported from Texas. But LaFortune doesn’t agree with this approach to the issue at hand.

“They’re taking these migrants and they are sending them back to Haiti,” she said. “Haiti just experienced a tragic earthquake. There is political unrest. So, what are we sending them to? To another place where there is a humanitarian crisis?”

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