During the first month of the Biden administration, hundreds of Haitian asylum seekers were put on planes and sent back to that violence-wracked island. Despite the president’s promise to stop deportations, more than 15 flights carried families and small children back to the country they had fled, a country still torn by natural and political disasters. These deportations still continue, with no appeal or opportunity for hearing for most of those involved.
Buzzfeed News reports that administration officials acknowledge the dangers facing Haitian deportees.
“Department of Homeland Security officials acknowledged internally that deported Haitian immigrants “may face harm” upon returning to their home country due to violent crime and the political instability that has rocked the country in recent months…
“The report obtained by BuzzFeed News responds to a request from the meeting: ‘Embassy Port au Prince briefed on the deterioration of rule of law in Haiti in recent months, and ongoing gang violence and human rights violations in the country. In light of these developments, DHS US Citizenship and Immigration Services will reevaluate whether expelled Haitians would face harm upon return to Haiti,” it begins, before declaring that ‘based on a recent analysis of conditions in Haiti, USCIS believes that Haitians removed to Haiti may face harm upon return to Haiti as follows.’”
Haiti’s current president, Jovenal Moïse, continues in power although his term ended in February. Protests—often violently suppressed—challenge his rule by executive orders, his dissolution of parliament a year ago, and his refusal to hold elections for local governments and the country’s legislative body since 2018. He has unilaterally “retired” three members of the nation’s Supreme Court, saying he did so to “protect” the court. Protesters also cite what they call rampant government corruption and gang violence.
Add to the political disaster the country’s failure to recover after a devastating 2010 earthquake that killed 250,000 people and displaced 1.5 million: half of the country’s entire population. Before the 2010 earthquake, Haiti was one of the poorest countries in the hemisphere. After the earthquake, recovery seemed impossible. Cholera, brought to Haiti by UN peacekeepers in 2010, infected 800,000 Haitians and killed more than 10,000. Since 2010, three hurricanes and another earthquake have further delayed recovery. Ongoing human rights abuses include massacres, gender-based violence, and child labor amounting to near-slavery.
Most of the Haiti expulsions come under the so-called Title 42 public health order, allegedly to protect the United States from COVID. This rule, put in place by the Trump administration, has nothing to do with protection or public health. Back in March 2020, top public health officials refused to issue such a baseless order. The Trump administration forced the rule through anyway.
“The top Centers for Disease Control and Prevention doctor who oversees these types of orders had refused to comply with a Trump administration directive saying there was no valid public health reason to issue it, according to three people with direct knowledge of the doctor’s refusal.
“So Pence intervened in early March. The vice president, who had taken over the Trump administration’s response to the growing pandemic, called Dr. Robert Redfield, the CDC’s director, and told him to use the agency’s special legal authority in a pandemic anyway. …
The Title 42 removals are legally classified as expulsions rather than deportations. That means they take place with no access to immigration courts. Under this procedure, no asylum claims are allowed. In addition to the ongoing flights to Haiti, more than 200,000 people have been summarily expelled to other countries since the Title 42 order was issued. There is no due process, no legal process at all—just a plane ride out of the United States and back to danger and disaster.
Dozens of Congressional representatives wrote to the president and Secretary Mayorkas on February 23:
“Mr. Secretary, the CDC order authorizing expulsions without due process under Title 42 was immoral and dangerous when issued and continues to put hundreds of thousands of people at risk. We urge you to safely and effectively end this practice as soon as practicable and to employ alternative forms of humanitarian relief for individuals subject to deportation until we have this virus under control.”
This must stop. The Biden administration could stop it today. You can call the White House comment line at 202-456-1111.