LAKE WORTH BEACH, Fla. — The U.S. is flying Haitians, who are camped in a Texas border town, back to their homeland and trying to block others from crossing the border from Mexico.
It's a massive show of force that signals the beginning of what could be one of America's swiftest, large-scale expulsions of migrants or refugees in decades.
But that move is heavily criticized by the South Florida Haitian community.
"They are human too. To treat them with respect and treat them with dignity. Because what's happening, it's not right," said Santcha Etienne with the Black Alliance for Justice Immigration.
Etienne spoke about the massive surge of Haitian migrants at the U.S. Mexico border in south Texas.
"I am pretty sure they don't just leave Haiti to come here and just be in that situation. They come, and there are reasons why. They want to leave and seek a better life because they can't take it anymore," Etienne said.
"It hurts, and it breaks my heart to see what is going on down there because we're talking about dealing with a lot of issues back home. They have been disenfranchised and are trying to find a way to make a living," said Haitian community member Thierry Isaac.
Etienne, like many other local Haitians, criticized the U.S. government for starting to fly hundreds of Haitians back to their homeland Sunday without an immigration hearing for political asylum.
It was among the topics discussed during a meeting in Lake Worth Beach with 20th district congressional candidate Sheila Cherfilus-McCormick, who is also Haitian.
"We need everyone to get a fair trial and a fair shot so they can get heard. Right now, with the instability in Haiti, it is unjust to send all those people who walked for miles and miles and miles to come here looking for political asylum," Cherfilus-McCormick said.
"But we also have to come together and try to put pressure on this current U.S. government to make sure they treat our people the same way as all the other groups," Isaac said.
Etienne said she and her organization plan to go to the U.S.-Mexico border in the coming days to assist in any way they can.