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Chorus of Voices Echo Former Haiti Special Envoy: “Deportation Back to Haiti is Not the Answer Right Now”

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Democrats in Congress, Advocates, and Civil Rights Leaders Condemn Biden Administration’s Decision to Continue Deportations “It’s gonna be a stain on this administration”

Yesterday former special envoy to Haiti Daniel Foote testified in a briefing before the House Foreign Affairs Committee in his first public comments since resigning in protest over the Biden Administration’s rapid expulsion of some 7,500 Haitian migrants who came to the U.S. border seeking asylum. In the weeks since the horrifying images of Border Patrol agents on horseback and the squalid conditions in a migrant camp in Del Rio, Texas captured national attention, the Biden Administration has continued to deport people to Haiti. Advocates have tracked at least 70 flights since September 19.

Despite deadly conditions in a country dominated by gang violence, poverty, food insecurity, and economic despair, President Biden has made the decision to continue the cruel policies and expulsions, continuing and even accelerating the policies of his predecessor as the Biden Administration defends them in court. Former special envoy Foote, Democratic Members of the House and Senate and a range of leading observers call on the Biden Administration to do better. 

During the hearing yesterday, former special envoy Foote and Members of Congress called for an end to the inhumane treatment of Haitian migrants: 

Former special envoy Daniel Foote: “Deportation back to Haiti is not the answer right now. Haiti is too dangerous .Deportation in the short term is not going to make Haiti more stable. In fact, it’s going to make it worse.

 …One thing I will say that I heard one of my colleagues say is that “The migrants would be better off in Port-au-prince than they were under that bridge” And they’re not – that’s how bad it was in Port-au-prince.

…Americans know how not to fix Haiti, we need Haitians in the room and Haitian-led solutions.”

Rep. Juan Vargas (D-CA): “I have to say that I was horrified with what I saw our country do to the Haitian migrants and immigrants that arrived in Del Rio, Texas. I thought it was a terrible overreaction by the administration and frankly, I don’t see any other way to describe it other than racism. I don’t believe that if it had been any other group other than people who are black, we would’ve reacted this way. It’s horrible, it’s unconscionable, it’s gonna be a stain on this administration.” 

Chairman Gregory Meeks (D-NY): “This is a multi-pronged crisis. The reality is our current policy towards immigration is a holdover from the previous administration and in desperate need of fresh faces and perspectives.”

Senator Bob Menendez (D-NJ) led 15 of his Senate colleagues in a letter to the Biden Administration, excerpted below: 

“We write to add our names to the groundswell of voices expressing outrage and disappointment over the cruel treatment of Haitians at our border, and their summary deportations. The new Temporary Protected Status designation for Haiti came into effect on 3 August, just weeks before the 14 August earthquake. At the time, Secretary Mayorkas stated that the country was ‘experiencing serious security concerns, social unrest, an increase in human rights abuses, crippling poverty, and lack of basic resources.’ The conditions in Haiti post-earthquake and post-August 3 are far worse than when the designation came into effect.  

…Over the course of our lifetimes, our Haitian brothers and sisters have endured dictatorships, constitutional crises, food insecurity, pandemics, natural disasters, forced displacement, the assassination of their President, and the criminal takeover of their communities. Their resilience is unparalleled and our communities in the United States have flourished as a result of the presence of Haitian immigrants and their American children.”

Guerline Jozef, President, Haitian Bridge Alliance, from interview with Yamiche Alcindor on PBS NewsHour:

“The reality is, the conditions in Haiti are unstable, and we need to look at root causes of migration of Haitians, who are being forced to leave their homes, their homeland, all they know, to make a dangerous journey to the United States.

…And it’s why we have been asking for them to stop deportation, because we see deportation as a form of violence upon Haiti and the Haitian people, as we see Haiti unable to recover from all this turmoil. Yet, today, the United States have decided, instead of providing protection to Haitians, they are deporting.

And I want to highlight that they are deporting pregnant women. Little children, little Black boys, little Black girls in need of protection are being deported to Haiti right now. It is, as Ambassador Foote mentioned, unacceptable, inhumane and a complete disregard for Haitian lives.”

Civil Rights Leader Bernice King in an op-ed, “Haitian migrants seeking asylum in the U.S. deserve better treatment,” for USA Today:

“I am concerned about the expediency of the Biden administration in deporting the majority of migrants back to Haiti, the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere where conditions have only worsened due to the coronavirus pandemic, the assassination of President Jovenel Moïse and a string of catastrophic natural disasters over the past decade.Under the direction of former President Donald Trump, his administration led the rapid expulsions of migrants without granting them an opportunity to apply for asylum. 

My concern is the Biden administration seemingly has continued to enforce this order, despite pushback from civil rights organizations like the King Center, Haitian American activists and many other organizations that believe in due process. I am calling on the Biden administration to immediately reconsider the immigration policies and practices at the southern border by U.S. Border Patrol agents against Haitians attempting to seek asylum in the United States.”

And a powerful op-ed in the Houston Chronicle from advocates Rachel Gore and Joshua Leech, leaders of the The Unitarian Universalist Service Committee: 

“The U.S. government has a moral obligation to stop repeating these same abusive patterns, not only because our immigration laws require access to request asylum, but also because our government has played such a large role in the problems plaguing Haiti. 

…To pivot from this course and adopt a new policy would not be as challenging as officials claim. Pending court cases have already put the Title 42 program in question. Biden could end the whole thing with a stroke of his pen today, and resume using the existing infrastructure of the U.S. asylum system to interview and process people’s claims for humanitarian protection.. Longer term, broader changes to U.S. immigration and foreign policy are ultimately needed, but simply restoring access to the asylum process should be a no-brainer — especially given that it’s what Biden has repeatedly promised to do.” 

Douglas Rivlin, Director of Communication for America’s Voice said, “To continue the cruel, racist, inhumane policies of the Trump Administration or rebuild an asylum system and create an immigration system that is fair and functional? The Biden Administration faces a choice, and the answer should be clear. President Biden made a commitment to reform how we treat people fleeing violence and specifically our policies towards Haitians and those seeking asylum. President Biden owes it to the voters who put him in the White House and put Democrats in the majority to end Trump policies to expel migrants, like the so-called public health measure Title 42. We expected an approach to immigration, racial justice and asylum consistent with the views of the muti-racial majority of voters who turned out in 2020 and won states like Virginia, Nevada, Georgia and Arizona. We were clear about wanting to turn the page on Donald Trump and Stephen Miller. The President should worry less about how his policies play with Republican lawmakers or Fox News viewers and more time worried about how his policies play with the people who voted for him.”

In case you missed it: The Washington Post’s powerful multimedia interactive feature, “‘People will always come’: Inside a Haitian’s journey without end,” is here. It features video interviews with Haitian migrants who had been in Del Rio and a video featurette on Guerline Jozef of the Haitian Bridge Alliance.