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ICYMI: “Descent into Hell”: Biden Administration Fails to Redesignate Haiti for TPS as Conditions Deteriorate

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Chaos, Kidnappings, and Violence Plague Haiti, and the Biden Administration has yet to designate Haiti for Temporary Protected Status or halt deportations

Despite increasing instability and violence in Haiti, the Biden Administration has failed to live up to the commitment made on the campaign trail to over 50,000 Haitian TPS holders in the U.S. and their families to protect them from deportation. There are also tens of thousands of Haitians living here who could be eligible if President Biden authorizes a new TPS designation for Haiti. Given the ongoing deteriorating conditions in Haiti, the Biden Administration should immediately redesignate Haiti for TPS to not only protect Haitians already here in the U.S. from deportation, but also to help create economic stability through remittances.

While the Biden Administration keeps delaying using TPS as a tool to protect Haitian immigrants, deportation flights to Haiti are continuing and conditions on the ground further  deteriorate. Recent reporting in Reuters highlights how widespread kidnappings have left the country reeling and its residents vulnerable to violence and exploitation in the face of political corruption and government inaction. 

The Haitian government is failing to protect its people from gang-related violence, and the U.S. government is failing to protect Haitians who are already living and working here – some for decades – from deportation to unsafe conditions. In a new interview with Alicia Menendez on MSNBC, Guerline Jozef of the Haitian Bridge Alliance speaks to the very real danger Haitians face not only in Haiti but also en route to to the U.S. in Mexico because of Biden’s enforcement of Trump-era Title 42 that prevents migrants from petitioning for asylum.

See the full version of the interview with Guerline Jozef here and the Reuters piece here. Key excerpts from both below:

From Reuters: 

“A wave of kidnappings is sweeping Haiti. But even in a country growing inured to horrific abductions, the case of five-year-old Olslina Janneus sparked outrage.

Olslina was snatched off the streets of the capital Port-au-Prince in late January as she was playing. The child’s corpse, bearing signs of strangulation, turned up a week later, according to her mother, Nadege Saint Hilaire, a peanut vendor who said she couldn’t pay the $4,000 ransom. Saint Hilaire’s cries filled the airwaves as she spoke to a few local radio stations seeking help raising funds to cover funeral costs.

Saint Hilaire is now in hiding after receiving death threats, she said, from the same gang that killed her daughter. “I wasn’t supposed to go to the radio to denounce what had happened,” she told Reuters.

…Haiti’s epidemic of kidnappings is the latest crisis to befall this Caribbean island nation of around 11 million people, roiled by deepening political unrest and economic misery. Kidnappings last year tripled to 234 cases compared to 2019, according to official data compiled by the United Nations.

The real figures are likely much higher because many Haitians don’t report abductions, fearing retribution from criminal gangs, according to attorney Gedeon Jean, director of the nonprofit Center for Human Rights Analysis and Research in Port-au-Prince. He said the research center recorded 796 kidnappings last year.

Haiti’s national police force did not respond to a request for comment. President Jovenel Moise has said repeatedly that his government is doing all it can, and has put more resources into anti-kidnapping efforts. Still, he publicly acknowledged on April 14 that “kidnappings have become generalized” and that efforts to combat persistent insecurity have been “ineffective.”

Human rights activists and a new report from Harvard Law School’s International Human Rights Clinic allege that Moise’s government has allied itself with violent criminal gangs to maintain its grip on power and to suppress dissent. Opposition groups have called for Moise to resign and hand power to a transitional government that would delay presidential and legislative elections slated for September until the nation is stable enough to ensure a free and fair contest.

…“For some time now, we have been witnessing the descent into hell of Haitian society,” the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Port-au-Prince said in a statement earlier this month.

….Kidnapping is an outgrowth of impunity for criminal organizations, according to Rosy Auguste Ducena, program manager of the Port-au-Prince-based National Network for the Defense of Human Rights.

“We are talking about a regime that has allied itself with armed gangs,” Ducena said.

Justice Minister Rockefeller Vincent denied any government alliance with gangs. He told Reuters in December that the wave of kidnappings was the work of political enemies seeking to undermine Moise “by creating a sense of chaos.”

The rise in kidnappings has petrified many Haitians. The heads of seven private business associations this month issued a joint statement saying they had reached “a saturation point” with soaring crime.

…”Kidnapping is killing the economy,” said Haitian economist Etzer Emile. He said the tourism and entertainment sectors have withered.”

Key transcript excerpts from Guerline Jozef on MSNBC

“Guerline Jozef: What we are seeing is complete chaos. The fact that we see that President Biden in his administration continues to use Title 42 to deport and expel people specifically to Haiti…as of yesterday [there have been] 30 deportation expulsion flights to Haiti including pregnant women and infants as young as 1 years old. Children! Instead of protecting them we see the continued use of Title 42 as a trap to literally continue the same system that Trump put in place which is unacceptable, which is why we as a community are calling on Biden to immediately rescind Title 42.

Alicia Menendez: This has become one of the stickiest questions in all of this, what would it mean to get rid of Title 42?

Guerline: It will mean actually providing a way for people to safely apply for asylum at the U.S.-Mexico border…we want to make sure that not only asylum seekers and migrants, and babies are protected, but also are cared for and welcomed with dignity. Title 42 as we see it being used is unacceptable and borderline illegal.

Alicia: I want to talk about the report released this week by Human Rights First that tracked nearly 500 attacks and kidnappings suffered by asylum seekers turned away, or stranded in Mexico since President Biden took office. What are the realities of what Black immigrants specifically face when they are expelled into Mexico? 

Guerline: So the danger for Haitian immigrants and danger for Black immigrants as they travel this long journey to come and ask for asylum, is it’s unsafe for them. Understand that those Black immigrants, Haitian immigrants, and Ethiopian immigrants are the most vulnerable. They cannot escape. The moment they step foot on the soil [in Mexico] they see that they don’t belong there…If you’re a Black person, there is nowhere for you to go. There’s no way for you to hide. There’s nothing to protect you.”