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ICYMI: Haitian-Americans Say Biden Is Turning His Back on a Country He Promised to Help

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Despite deteriorating country conditions, Biden responsible for deportation flights to Haiti at a rate of one every other day during his first year in office

A new piece in TIME highlights the destabilizing impact of ongoing deportations to Haiti as the nation grapples with compounding crises. Quoting leading Haitian-American leader Marleine Bastien of the Family Action Network Movement (FANM) in Miami’s Little Haiti, and Nana Gyamfi, the Executive Director of Black Alliance for Just Immigration, a national advocacy group based in New York, the article is an indictment of the President’s policies in his first year. Conditions on the ground in Haiti are deteriorating amid the ongoing COVID-19 crisis coupled with a presidential assassination, devastating earthquake, tropical storms, a sharp rise in gang kidnappings, and a fuel shortage all in the past year. 

President Biden made campaign promises to the Haitian-American community – right in the heart of Little Haiti – to end the racist treatment of Black migrants. Instead, his administration has embraced Title 42, a Trump era policy that uses flimsy public health pretext to expel tens of thousands of asylum seekers before they can even petition for safety under U.S. law. The policy was concocted by White House Advisor Stephen Miller in service of the white supremacist aims of the prior administration. It has been kept in place by Biden. 

Despite warnings that deportations exacerbate the crises in Haiti, the Biden Administration has used Title 42 to expel thousands of Haitians, including infants and children, on 189 deportation flights since taking office. That’s one flight every other day on average throughout his presidency. Since September 2021 when jarring images of Haitian asylum seekers being herded at the border went viral, the Biden Administration has expelled more than 16,300 people to dangerous and chaotic conditions. 

It’s not just immoral to expel Haitians, it’s bad policy that undermines the Biden Administration’s commitment to stabilize the region and address the root causes of migration. At a moment when America is honoring and reckoning with Black history, we can’t ignore the present reality of an Administration harming Black immigrants by failing to fulfill its promises. The refusal to act in his first year in office is a stain on President Biden’s record that deepens the crisis and presents an ongoing safety threat to Haitian asylum seekers. It’s time for President Biden to use the authority voters trusted him with to end Title 42 and create a functional, humane asylum system instead of embracing racist Trump era policies. 

The article is excerpted below and available in full here

It takes a lot to faze Marleine Bastien. After growing up under the brutal dictatorship of François ‘Papa Doc’ Duvalier, she left Port-au-Prince for Miami in 1981. The 62-year-old thought she had seen it all in her four decades working with the city’s Haitian community as a social worker and paralegal—until now.

…’There’s the constant pressure from family members who are scared to death, calling people here asking for help,’ says Bastien. ‘And you just feel trapped.’

…The Haitian-American diaspora is used to unsettling news from the island. But in the past six months, Haiti has not only gone through the assassination of a sitting president, a constitutional crisis, and repeated attempts on the acting prime minister’s life, but also a devastating earthquake that killed thousands, followed by a tropical storm and prolonged fuel crises. 

…President Joe Biden was a vocal critic of former President Donald Trump’s Haiti policies. While courting the Haitian-American vote in Miami during his 2020 campaign, he accused Trump of ‘abandoning the Haitian people while the country’s political crisis is paralyzing that nation.’ But critics here and in Washington alike say so far, Biden has done little different. His administration has continued to employ a Trump-era public health law that uses the coronavirus pandemic as a justification to deport Haitians back to a country many call a war zone.

…Haitian groups and international observers say the ongoing deportations are only adding to the instability and violence. So far more than 17,000 Haitians have been deported under Biden, straining limited resources amid food insecurity, a health care system ‘on the brink of collapse’ in a country with the third lowest COVID-19 vaccination rate in the world, and a collapsed economy, according to a December letter signed by Amnesty International and seven other human rights groups protesting the deportations.

…In images widely broadcast around the world, U.S. border agents on horseback were shown herding Haitian migrants like cattle. These actions were condemned by legal experts and advocates who say the Biden Administration’s continued use of Title 42 violates both U.S. and international asylum law.

For Haitian-Americans, who had largely supported Biden when he ran on the promise of repealing Trump’s immigration policies, it felt like a betrayal. ‘That’s a hell of a ramp up,’ says Nana Gyamfi, the Executive Director of Black Alliance for Just Immigration, a national advocacy group based in New York. ‘Joe Biden got down on his knees in (Miami’s) Little Haiti, and made promises about protecting people—not separating their families, not expelling them to a country that has been designated as too dangerous to deport people to. Every single one of those promises was broken,’ she says. ‘This Administration has actually made the situation worse.’