NORFOLK, Va. - From the air, on the water and on horseback, the images of the humanitarian crisis at the United States and Mexico border are hard to swallow.
"What makes Haitians any different from Afghans, Cubans or any other nation seeking help from America?" Norfolk resident Yasmine Charles asked.
A Norfolk resident, Norfolk State University graduate and Navy veteran, Charles was born in Haiti. She says the images of the nearly 15,000 Haitians trying to seek refuge in the United States make her heart heavy.
"I was very angry. I am from Haiti, and these are my people," she said.
Charles knows the pain of deportation. She was deported back to Haiti from the United States by her own father when she was just 16.
"My papers, my passport and my green card were taken from me," Charles said.
Thursday, the Biden administration's top diplomat to Haiti resigned in protest over what he calls the inhumane deportation of more than 1,400 Haitian migrants, mostly women and children, back to their poverty-stricken country.
"There is nothing to go back to. It is a slap in the face," Charles said.
"I am coming up with solutions. We really need to clean this up," she said.
Charles is sounding the alarm. She's been emailing Gov. Ralph Northam and Congressman Bobby Scott, even emailing President Joe Biden, hoping her voice will be heard, demanding an end to deportations like the one she went through.
"Looking back now, 20 years later, that experience would prepare me to become a voice for Haitian people. I lived it; I know what it's like to be deported, rejected and unwanted," she said. "We have a voice. Nothing ever happened in America without someone speaking up and rocking the boat."