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Mayorkas insists it is safe to send migrants back to Haiti, contradicting Biden envoy who quit

·4 min read
Secretary of Homeland Security Alejandro Mayorkas speaks during a press briefing at the White House, Friday, Sept. 24, 2021, in Washington (AP)
Secretary of Homeland Security Alejandro Mayorkas speaks during a press briefing at the White House, Friday, Sept. 24, 2021, in Washington (AP)

Secretary of Homeland Security Alejandro Mayorkas has insisted that it is safe to send migrants back to Haiti, contradicting the former Special Envoy to the country Daniel Foote, who harshly criticized the Biden administration for its “inhumane” policy towards Haitian migrants.

“We have continued to study the conditions in Haiti, and we have in fact determined, despite the tragic and devastating earthquake that it is in fact, capable of receiving individuals,” Mr Mayorkas said during a press conference at the White House on Friday. He also said that 17 expulsion flights have travelled to Haiti carrying around 2,000 people.

Those who have not been expelled will be put in expulsion proceedings. Around 12,400 people will be heard by immigration judges.

“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 danger posed by armed gangs in control of daily life,” Mr Foote said in his resignation letter on Wednesday.

A large number of the migrants trying to enter the US are being removed under Title 42 – a policy that began under the Trump administration and that allows the US to expel migrants without allowing them to apply for asylum if they pose a public health risk. During the pandemic, Title 42 have blocked many from entering the US at the southern border.

Some Democrats have urged the Biden administration to put a stop to the removals of Haitians as their country faces multiple crises – an earthquake recently killed more than 2,000 people and caused widespread devastation, the country has not managed to take control over the spread of Covid-19 and has a very low vaccination rate, and political chaos has gripped the country since President Jovenel Moïse was assassinated on 7 July.

“We designated Haiti for Temporary Protected Status for those Haitian nationals resident in the United States who are here prior to July 29,” Mr Mayorkas said on Friday. “And we were mindful of the assassination that occurred, and we were unsure of the results of that assassination in terms of the stability of the political order. Once a new leader took office, and things seem to settle down, we determined that the July 29 date was equitable to address the humanitarian relief of Haitian nationals already resident in the United States.”

“We made a determination based on the legal standards and the facts are that in fact individuals could be returned to the country as a whole,” he added.

Mr Foote said the Haitian people are “mired in poverty” and are “hostage to the terror, kidnappings, robberies and massacres of armed gangs” and that they’re “suffering under a corrupt government” that has alliances with those gangs.

Arguing against the deportation of Haitian migrants who have made it to the southern US border, Mr Foote said Haiti “simply cannot support the forced infusion of thousands of returned migrants lacking food, shelter, and money without additional, avoidable human tragedy”.

“The collapsed state is unable to provide security or basic services, and more refugees will fuel further desperation and crime. Surging migration to our borders will only grow as we add to Haiti’s unacceptable misery,” he wrote.

He added that Haiti needs “immediate assistance” and “money to deliver Covid vaccines and so many other things”.

Blasting international political interference in the country, Mr Foote said that what Haitians “really want” is to choose their own path “without international puppeteering and favoured candidates”.

“Last week, the US and other embassies in Port-au-Prince issued another public statement of support ... for the unelected, de facto Prime Minister Dr Ariel Henry as interim leader of Haiti, and have continued to tout his ‘political agreement’ over another broader, earlier accord shepherded by civil society,” Mr Foote added. “The hubris that makes us believe we should pick the winner – again – is impressive. This cycle of international political interventions in Haiti has consistently produced catastrophic results. More negative impacts to Haiti will have calamitous consequences, not only in Haiti, but in the US and our neighbours in the hemisphere,” he concluded.

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