The U.S.’s special envoy to Haiti has resigned, condemning the Biden administration in his resignation letter as officials double down on deporting and criminalizing Haitian migrants seeking safety and stability in the U.S.
“I will not be associated with the United States inhumane, counterproductive decision to deport thousands of Haitian refugees and illegal immigrants to Haiti, a country where American officials are confined to secure compounds because of the dangers posed by armed gangs in control of daily life,” wrote former envoy Daniel Foote in a letter to Secretary of State Antony Blinken on Wednesday.
“Our policy approach to Haiti remains deeply flawed, and my recommendations have been ignored and dismissed, when not edited to project a narrative different from my own,” Foote continued. Foote had served as a diplomat to Haiti since the beginning of July.
President Joe Biden has been deporting hundreds of Haitians to a country that was ravaged by a 7.2 magnitude earthquake this summer and has been mired in widespread political unrest and violence since the assassination of President Jovenel Moïse last July. The estimated 10,000 to 15,000 mostly Haitian asylum seekers waiting to cross the border into the U.S. describe fleeing desperate conditions in Haiti, some even expressing a real fear that they may die if they return.
Foote moreover criticizes the administration for its decision to support Ariel Henry, the current prime minister of the country. “[W]hat our Haitian friends really want, and need, is the opportunity to chart their own course, without international puppeteering and favored candidates,” Foote wrote. “The hubris that makes us believe we should pick the winner — again — is impressive.”
Haitian advocates have also condemned the administration’s imperialism. Haitian activist Monique Clesca recently told Democracy Now! that the U.S. State Department has no business choosing who should be the leader of Haiti. “It is offensive. It should not be done. It is unacceptable,” Clesca said.
Progressive lawmakers and immigration advocates have scorched the administration for its violence toward Haitian migrants both in the country and at the border, where they are met with cruelty by U.S. border agents. This week, pictures and videos emerged showing Border Patrol agents on horseback, threatening to trample and whip Haitian adults and children carrying supplies across the Rio Grande.
“Babies under the age of three have been on those flights. Families fleeing a humanitarian crisis, seeking a better life in the United States, have been rounded up like cattle. Whipped, handcuffed and detained. Sent back to a country where many families have nothing left,” said Rep. Ayanna Pressley (D-Massachusetts) this week. “This is abhorrent…. Haitian lives are Black lives, and if we truly believe that Black lives matter, then we must reverse course.”
However, the administration has only redoubled its efforts to detain and deport Haitians thus far. On Sunday, after the U.S ordered three deportation flights to Haiti, Department of Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas offered a harsh defense of the practice, saying, “If you come to the United States illegally, you will be returned.”
Meanwhile, the Biden administration is fighting in court to keep Title 42 in place, a policy invoked by Donald Trump, which allows for swift deportations during a public health emergency while giving little to no chance for asylum.
The administration is also seeking to hire contractors to run a migrant jail at the Guantánamo Bay naval base this week, with an emphasis on guards who speak Spanish and Haitian Creole. Though the Department of Homeland Security has said that the administration is not planning to send Haitian asylum seekers from the U.S.’s southern border to Guantánamo Bay, the facility has been the site of brutality toward Haitians in the past.
In the 1990s, the George H.W. Bush administration sent as many as 12,000 Haitians to Guantánamo Bay after the U.S. facilitated a violent coup d’etat in Haiti under the direction of then-Attorney General William Barr. The administration singled out HIV-positive Haitians for imprisonment, creating the world’s first HIV detention camp. Haitian immigrants were held there for a year and a half before their imprisonment was eventually ruled unconstitutional.