Weekly update on expulsion of refugees to Haiti, Take Action

The Biden administration continues to expel Haitian refugees at an alarming rate. 15,920 Haitians have been expelled on 148 flights since the current wave of mass deportations began on September 19. Over 18,000 Haitians have been expelled since Biden took office.

There have been 32 flights thus far in January (through the 21st), with two or three flights every day. Most flights are departing from Laredo, a border town in Texas, and are mostly Title 42 expulsions. Consistent demographic data is hard to get – Immigration and Customs Enforcement provides nothing, and confirms nothing publicly. However, based on reporting from the International Organization on Migration in Haiti, which receives those expelled, 18% of those expelled through December 31 were children, indicating that a large percent of removals are families.

This week*

Tuesday: Two flights from Laredo, TX to Port au Prince, total numbers were not available. However, it was reported that 79 of the people who arrived on these flights tested positive for COVID-19.
Wednesday: One flight with 127 people, including 58 children, of whom 38 were reportedly infants (0-2 years old).
Thursday: Two flights with 238 people, including 48 children
 
Friday: One flight with 72 people, 28 children, 22 of whom were less than 2 years old.

Media: Rafael Bernal and Rebecca Beitsch,”Rift grows between Biden and immigration advocates,” The Hill, January 20, 2022, and Charlotte Weiner, “Why the Haitian Struggle Matters for Anti-Racism Activism,”  January 18, 2022

* Many thanks to Steve Forester of the Institute for Justice and Democracy in Haiti, who provides a daily report about these expulsions.

Take Action to Halt the Flights

Contact your members of Congress and push them to speak out against this policy. We have prepared a message you can send here. Time permitting, take the extra step of calling your members of Congress, House and Senate, and ask them to publicly oppose these removals.

There is organizational sign on letter demanding an end to these expulsions being coordinated by Haitian Bridge Alliance and others. You can read that here, and sign here (organizations only!).  Deadline for signing is January 25, 2022

 

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Seed delivery from Gros Morne to Camp Perrin

Seeds being offloaded in Camp Perrin

On August 14, 2021, a series of earthquakes struck Haiti’s southern peninsula, leaving 2,400 people dead and doing enormous damage to the area’s infrastructure. Like most of Haiti outside of Port au Prince, the peninsula is a predominantly agricultural area. Damage to roads and bridges, the death of farm animals, and mudslides from the tropical storm that struck the area a few days later, have all conspired to threaten food production. Farmers struggle to get supplies for the winter planting, and are cut-off from markets in Port au Prince due to armed groups controlling the roads into and out of the city.

In response to the earthquake, the Quixote Center is funding direct cash payments to individuals in the impacted area. We emphasize cash payments over other types of  aid in order to support local markets, especially local and regional farmers, who can see their livelihoods damaged further when markets are flooded with imported food aid. Where markets are open, and local supplies available, supporting the local economy is better for Haiti in the long run.

Even if supplies become difficult to source nearby, they can often still be sourced from other parts of Haiti. Though transport is difficult, it is worth the effort to build connections within Haiti for relief efforts.

Quixote Center partners with an agro-ecology program that includes a seed bank near Gros Morne, Haiti. With support from the Quixote Center, our partners at the Jean Marie Vincent Formation Center purchased seeds from farmers in Gros Morne and delivered them to farmers near Camp Perrin, which is located near the epicenter of the August earthquake.

Guy Marie Garcon, who coordinates the program at the Jean Marie Vincent Formation Center, wrote, 

The community of Gros Morne has often been a victim of hurricanes and earthquakes in recent memory, so we understand the pain of the farmers in the South. We have the possibility to help our compatriots in the South, which is why we propose to send seed support for planters in [Camp Perrin]. We would send them good quality bean seeds, so that they can replant their gardens. By purchasing these seeds from farmers in Gros Morne, we would provide good quality local seeds for the farmers in the South, rather than importing them from abroad. We know that our seeds will grow well in the South.

Of course, we faced a struggle getting the seeds delivered, as there is no safe way to drive them directly to Camp Perrin. The driver from Gros Morne delivered the seeds to a program partner’s office in Port-au-Prince safely, but he did have to navigate roadblocks in St. Marc to do so.  

Once in Port-au-Prince, the seeds waited for a couple of days for safe passage south.

The seeds were delivered to the Sacred Heart Parish in Camp Perrin on Saturday, January 15th, and from there will be delivered to 100 small farmers, ultimately providing assistance to 450 people in Toirac and surrounding areas like Mailloux, Sous De Vie and Barat. 

It is a small project, but is an example we hope will grow. Rather than bring in outside supplies that displace Haitian growers, we are supporting local growers. For those of you who donated through our emergency response fund, we thank you for your generosity.

 

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Soup Joumou: Celebrating Haitian Independence

Today marks not just the start of 2022, but Haiti’s Independence Day. For the occasional, our board member Serge Hyacinthe explains the importance of January 1st in Haiti and the special meaning behind soup joumou, as well as how to make it at home. 

As Haitians, we are no strangers to natural disasters and political challenges that have excruciating impacts on our nation and families, but 2021 has been an especially heart-wrenching year for most Haitians.  Yet, even these endowed afflictions could not shield our inner souls against the pain and sheer humiliation of our treatment at the hands of U.S. Customs Agents, the brazen assassination of our sitting president, and the complete disregard of our sovereignty. The challenges of the year forced many of us to become superhuman with a suffocating sense of resilience.

For this reason, we will welcome January 1st, 2022 with moments of reflection and remembrance. It will be a day when many will bend a knee, say a prayer, call out to the ancestors and befallen loved ones, or attend a service. And some may ponder with sincerity: Has the Creator who has given us 1804, freedom from our enslavers, independence in a very hostile world, the Creator of all humanity, the all-merciful and beneficent forsaken us? But history would remind us, it is not the Creator who has forsaken us, but nations and men. Our history would also remind us that liberty comes with a high price. So with all our challenges and pain we will celebrate and honor the sacrifices of our ancestors.

January 1st is one of our most important holidays. On that day, we give thanks for the hard-fought victory of our ancestors against the institution of slavery and colonialism. We rejoice in the divine spirits that have maintained and accompanied us through personal and collective adversities and helped us retain our identity, humanity, and souls as proud and unabashed Haitians. We celebrate the support of friends of all nationalities and hues who have supported us in our treacherous and continuous struggles.  We honor the work of organizations like the Quixote Center and others whose compassion and kindness have seen no bounds. For those reasons, our faith is unwavering. Despite overwhelming odds, over the centuries, we prevailed against social, economic, and racial injustice. We must prevail because Haiti’s fight for liberation across the globe is the symbol of freedom and liberty for humanity.

 Haiti’s fight for independence lasted 13 years. It is the first and only successful slave revolt for independence in the world. It is the first revolution in modern history that modeled freedom for all regardless of gender, race, and religion. The Haitian liberators included men and women who extended their knowledge and resources to help others gain their own freedom. Our ancestors including, our second leader, Henry Christophe, assisted in the American Revolution and fought in the battle of Savannah. The Haitian President Alexandre Petion supported Simon Bolivar, the great liberator of South America in 1815 with soldiers and resources. With Haiti’s help, Bolivar obtained the independence of northwest Brazil, Bolivia, Columbia, Costa Rica, Ecuador, Guyana, and northern Peru. Bolivar kept his promise to Petition by abolishing slavery in all those territories upon victory. Haiti also supported Greece as she was fighting for her own independence from the Ottoman Empire and was the first to recognize the nation in 1822.

It is with the fervor of our ancestors for freedom, this year and beyond, Haitians will celebrate January 1st, Haitian Independence Day, by connecting with family, friends, and our communities. To honor our rich cultural heritage we will share our history, dance, music, and cuisine with our family on January 1st.  We invite others to celebrate with their families too by eating our Soup Joumou, also known as freedom soup.  The quest for freedom and liberty is a gift that we all honor. We pray that the soup connects us, energizes us, and inspires us to create brighter tomorrows. 

Below is a recipe for the Haitian freedom soup, also known as Soup Joumou:        

Ingredients:

1 pound of beef, chicken, or turkey 

½ cup fresh lime juice 

5 tablespoons of Goya Adobo seasoning

2 pounds calabaza squash, peeled and roughly chopped

1 tablespoon oil

2 tablespoons tomato paste

5 medium Idaho or russet potatoes, peeled and cut into 3/4-inch cubes

½ small head green cabbage, shredded (about 3 cups)

4 medium carrots, peeled and sliced

1 large white onion, finely chopped

2 celery stalks, cut into 1/2-inch pieces

2 scallions, trimmed and sliced

3 fresh parsley sprigs

1 Scotch Bonnet pepper

¼ teaspoon fresh or dried thyme leaves

2 pints of vegetable or meat broths 

2 teaspoons kosher salt

¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

½ cup pasta

Instructions:

1. Pour oil in a large pot over medium heat for about 5 to seven minutes

2. Add tomato paste, onions, scallions, scotch bonnet pepper, and stir  

3. Add choice of meat (beef, chicken, or turkey) and sauté till it browns 

4. Add potatoes, carrots, onions, scallions, cabbage blended squash, and choice of broth.

5. Cook and simmer periodically for about 30 minutes.  

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Despite ongoing crises in Haiti, Biden keeps expelling Haitians from the US

On Monday, December 20, the Biden administration sent three removal flights back to Haiti, with over 340 people on them including 32 children. As we move into Christmas week the administration plans to send planes every day back to Haiti, except for Christmas eve. Since taking office, the Biden administration has removed over 14,000 people to Haiti; at least 11,100 since mid-September. 

How can the Biden administration justify bringing together people to discuss the multifaceted problems in Haiti, acknowledging in the process the deteriorating security situation, and still deport thousands of Haitians back to Haiti – many of whom were never even given a chance to apply for asylum under the Biden administration’s ongoing enforcement of Title 42. The Miami Herald’s editorial board lifted up this contradiction (in an otherwise problematic call for UN intervention):

“When the Haitian gang, named 400 Mawozo, kidnapped 17 Christian missionaries in October, the United States warned Americans on the island to get out— now. All the while, the Biden administration was sending planeloads of Haitian migrants in the United States back to their violent homeland. The message? Haiti’s too dangerous for Americans, but it’s good enough for Haitians.”

Since Biden took office we have demanded that deportations be halted. We’ve been joined in doing so by hundreds of human rights and immigrant organizations, members of Congress, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, and the editorial boards of the Washington Post, the New York Times, the Miami Herald, the Boston Globe and others. Members of Biden’s State Department team have quit over this policy. And yet Biden persists under the delusion that somehow if the United States keeps being cruel to Haitians and others this will deter people from trying to come to the United States. 

While it seems that just about everything has been tried already, we can’t stop demanding. If you would like to join in these efforts, and you can send a message to your member of Congress, encouraging them to speak out. And join in this petition to end Title 42 and the Biden administration’s renewal of the Migrant Protection Protocols. Share with friends.

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Kim Lamberty: Racism, Colonialism and Haiti

Below is the text version of a presentation by Quixote Center Executive Director Kim Lamberty, DMin upon receiving Pax Christi’s 14th Annual Peacemaker Award, November 7, 2021. A video of the presentation is below.

Thank you. I have worked with many of you for a long time and it is special to be recognized by one’s peers and communities.  Thanks also to each of you present this evening –I am feeling the love. 

Tonight I will look briefly at a history of racism and colonialism through the lens of Haiti and Haiti’s history.  The idea is in part to refocus on Haiti, given the current situation of extreme violence, food insecurity, vulnerability. In talking about Haiti I am also going to talk about the ways in which a racist, colonial economic system is still at play, and offer some thoughts about what we can be doing differently.

Brief narrative of Haiti’s history 

In 1492, Columbus landed on the island known as Haiti by the indigenous Taino population, and promptly renamed it Hispaniola.  He established the first Spanish settlement there, and after successive Spanish settlements, within 100 years the indigenous population had been destroyed. By the late 1600s, the half of the island that is known as Haiti had been ceded to the French, who turned it into a giant coffee and sugar plantation. At its peak, half of the Atlantic slave trade went to Haiti. This plantation economy depended on the deforestation of high-value trees, extreme violence toward the people who they had enslaved, and forced conversion to Catholicism. By the time of the Haitian revolution, the French side of the island was the world’s top producer of coffee and sugar and France’s most profitable colony. One out of every 8 people in France derived their living from this trade, which was entirely dependent on the enslavement of Africans.

Analogous stories happened in other European colonies. Haiti was one of the most profitable, but the other European countries also earned extraordinary profits through colonizing, pilfering, and enslaving Africans and indigenous. This is where European wealth came from, the same wealth that, for example, provided funding for religious orders and missionary work. 

The Haitian revolution began as a slave rebellion that ultimately defeated Napoleon’s army to form the first Black republic in the Western Hemisphere in 1804.  Thomas Jefferson responded by imposing a trade embargo, and the United States refused to recognize Haiti until 1862. France cut off all trade until the Haitian government agreed to pay them reparations for lost  “human and territorial” property. Haitian went from one of the most profitable territories in the world to a situation of destitution from which it has not recovered. There is much more to the story, such as US occupation, US support for dictators, US interference in democratic elections, US treatment of migrants fleeing an untenable situation, that continued to oppress the people of Haiti over the ensuing decades and centuries.  This is not unlike our history in other Latin American countries, many of whom also have not recovered from what was done to them during the colonial period.

The Poverty-Industrial Complex

European colonialism was based in an ideology of white supremacy and an economic system that enriched some people at the expense of vast forced labor—because if they had to pay people, they would not have gotten nearly so rich. One can draw parallels to today…because paying substandard wages, or paying low prices for natural resources from vulnerable countries, still makes some people very rich and others very poor. So now let’s jump ahead to today, a situation where Haitians frequently refer to their own country as the Republic of NGOs. I call it the poverty-industrial complex.

Economically vulnerable countries, such as Haiti, are also home to many of the natural resources required to sustain the lifestyles of wealthier countries. Coffee is one of them, and hopefully by the end of this conversation, you will see why I got into the coffee business. Obviously there are many other commodities that one could focus on. 

The economic system that we are all functioning in is focused on maximizing shareholder wealth. Companies buy natural resources, or the labor it takes to produce their product, at the lowest possible amount they possibly can, and sell the finished product for the highest possible amount they can, keeping the profits from those sales for themselves, and their shareholders, which are often one and the same. They get cheap labor and resources from vulnerable communities and countries who are kept in a permanent state of need because they are never paid enough to live on. Consumers—that is you and me—are complicit in this system because we are conditioned to pay the lowest amount we possibly can for the goods that we consume, often without doing the work to understand the impact on labor, as well as on producers, in vulnerable countries. It also takes an environmental toll because resources are extracted in the cheapest manner possible without regard to impact on the planet.

Obviously there are exceptions, both on the industry side and on the consumption side. But by and large this is what we are dealing with in terms of how wealth is generated. From profits.

The NGOs come in to mop up the mess in poor countries and communities, trying to bridge the gap between what people are getting paid for goods and services, and what they actually need to live on. NGOs raise money from the exact same people—the wealthy—in other words, from many of the same people who are profiting off of poverty. There is a lot of money to be made off of poverty, which is why we still have it.

Let’s take the coffee industry. Coffee is a top export from economically vulnerable countries, so it is worth looking at. It impacts 25 million small scale growers, or around 100 million people total, although most coffee is grown on large plantations owned by wealthy landholders. The current international price for coffee is between 2 and 3 bucks per pound, which is actually quite high by historical standards. In most cases, that money goes to a plantation owner, who pays very low wages (or none at all) to hired labor for what is very difficult work. We also know that there is slave labor in the coffee supply chain, in particular in Brazil, which is the top global exporter of coffee. In some cases, when small farmers have formed cooperatives, they get a larger portion of that money, but a chunk of it still goes to the coop to pay for its own expenses and salaries. And how much do you pay for a pound of coffee? Studies have shown that the bulk of the income from coffee sales goes to large roasters, who are the ones making the profits.

The people making the profits give from their excess to NGOs, who then use a substantial amount of that money to pay their own salaries, and to create the infrastructure needed to deliver aid. This means paying for offices, trucks, warehouses, computers—etc., in addition to their own salaries, which are often very substantial.  It is really hard to find information about how much actual cash gets into the hands of people in need, because organizations include their own salaries and infrastructure in their reported “program costs.” What would happen if we just took all that money and gave it to people in need? People know what to do with it. Instead, we have developed a jobs-creation program for people such as myself. It is an industry that depends on poverty to survive, and a whole lot of jobs are at stake. Many of them are connected to churches.

I have heard numerous Haitians point this out: Money that gets raised for Haiti does not go to Haiti—it goes to aid workers. My question is, how is the poverty industrial complex that I am describing not still colonialism? 

The Cost of Colonialism

People kept in a permanent state of need will take action to support and protect themselves and their families. If they have the opportunity, they will migrate to a place where they think they have a better chance of making a living—and so we are seeing the huge cost of the poverty-industrial complex at our borders, and at borders around the globe. What’s happening at the US-Mexico border is minuscule compared to what is happening in Africa, home to the largest refugee camps in the world. 

Economically vulnerable people also join armed groups as a way to resolve their lives. In Colombia, I had conversations with people who simply said that young people are joining armed groups because they have no other economic opportunity. Studies have been done that confirm that this dynamic exists elsewhere: young people in particular will join armed groups if they think they do not have other options for making a living. This is just as true in the US as it is in Haiti, Colombia, Palestine, and Guatemala.

Many of our interventions into this dynamic take place in order to alleviate the damage done without addressing the root cause of the damage. We have the best of intentions when we work to change US immigration policy, or when we provide support for migrant camps, or we oppose the sale of weapons, or we do gang intervention work. And obviously, we have to do those things, and it’s not likely that these symptoms of a much larger problem are going away any time soon. 

According to the Gospel, “The poor you will always have with you.” (Matthew 26:11) The poor we will always have with us because there will always be natural disasters, or pandemics, or other catastrophes that befall us—it is the human condition. We live in a state of insecurity, and there will always be a need for a selfless response to those in need. So I’m not saying that all aid is bad, and during my time at CRS I saw some great examples of aid at work. But the conditions we see right now—extreme endemic poverty in places like Haiti, widespread food insecurity, violence, and a global migration crisis—these things do not always have to be with us. 

In order for those things to not always be with us, we need to get beyond addressing the symptoms, and get to the actual causes. If you want peace, work for justice! Paul VI was right—he just didn’t come up with the right or complete remedy. At the end of Populorum Progressio he advised everyone to contribute to the aid organizations!

Frequently, when we say we are addressing the root cause what we are actually doing is shoring up the poverty-industrial complex, rather than focusing on dismantling the systems and structures that will lead to significantly increased income generation for vulnerable families and communities. In other words, it’s not good enough to develop an industrial campus in northern Haiti—what the Clintons did—if the jobs don’t pay well enough to live on and local farmers are displaced. It’s not enough to develop a coffee program in a vulnerable community if all the growers get is a dollar or two dollars a pound—because that helps the roasters in the US but does not bring producers out of poverty. I don’t even like using the term “root cause” anymore, because it has been co-opted.

People are poor because they don’t have enough money, or assets to generate money. This is not rocket science. If society wanted to fix this, it would. The problem is that really fixing it would require economic sacrifice on the part of the wealthy. 

What Justice Looks Like

We started Just Haiti to address these economic justice issues. The organization is run by an all-volunteer team of 9 people. Each of us has another job, and each of us plays a significant role in Just Haiti operations.  We pay the highest price for green coffee in the industry, and all profits from sales go to the growers—because as we noted earlier, wealth is generated from profits. Our producers tell us that they use the profits to pay school fees for their kids, to cover unexpected medical expenses, to plant food crops, or to grow their coffee business. Our work is another level of ethics than what is practiced by most NGOs, even the most progressive ones.

People tell me it is unsustainable, and I say really? What is it actually and concretely going to take for us to reverse and dismantle a racist, colonial economic system? What we are doing at Just Haiti is at least part of what it is going to take, because what we are doing is actually dismantling it. What would happen if everyone did it? And a shout out to the Just Haiti board, a wonderful community of volunteers that it is my privilege to work with. They are making many personal sacrifices –it is a lot of work to run the organization and we do it together. Community is what makes this work fun as well as sustainable, and we have developed a fabulous community over the years. And by the way, you can buy our coffee at justhaiti.org.

The Quixote Center, where I just took over as executive director, is engaging in some similar cutting edge work in another part of Haiti which does not involve coffee or exports but does involve agricultural development. I just started as part of the Quixote Center community, but my expectation is that it will be just as much fun and sustaining.

I’m sure that many of you already buy fair trade products. Unfortunately, not all fair trade is alike. If your favorite fair trade company advertises that it is using its profits to install a water system in its producer communities, then they are also part of the poverty-industrial complex. Why aren’t they paying their growers enough so that the community can purchase and maintain its own water system? So buy fair trade—it is a huge step in the right direction—but buy it with a discerning eye and ask questions about how the proceeds are used. 

There are other things we can do that most of you already know about: support local farmers, purchase from black and brown-owned businesses, do business with registered B Corps. I invite each one of us has to be very intentional about this as an act of anti-racism, as violence prevention, and as a means to dismantle an unjust economic system. 

It’s not enough, unfortunately. The vast majority of CEOs are never going to give up their lucrative salaries for the sake of a better standard of living for workers and producers, whether in the US or elsewhere. It can, however, be addressed through the tax code. Right now, we have a tax system that favors the wealthy because of the low rates levied against high income and against capital gains, which come from stock sales. The incentive is to collect greater and greater income, especially through stock, because it isn’t taxed all that much. De-incentivize it through the tax code by increasing tax rates on the wealthy. Getting involved in advocacy on tax as well as wage issues is also a part of the solution. 

 There are lots of other ideas and suggestions that I am sure many of you could add. The point I want to leave you with is that I think the cutting-edge work right now is the economic system. While many folks in wealthy countries are doing well, the gap between rich and poor has gotten astronomical in the last few decades. And the point of talking about Just Haiti is to say that there are concrete things we can do to dismantle this system. 

Luann Mostello told me she hoped my presentation would spark interest in engagement with Haiti, and I hope that, too. And at the same time, as already noted, Haiti has way too many NGO actors from the United States already. My perspective on this is that instead of establishing more siloed projects, we do a better job in Haiti working in partnership, pooling our resources, to support cutting-edge work that dismantles an unjust, oppressive economic system. Through partnerships, Just Haiti has worked to replicate our model, with some great successes and some failures as well. We learn from our failures and do better the next time. I would really like to replicate the Quixote Center’s work in other communities as well. I have been the long-term consultant for a sisters of Notre Dame deNamur project in Les Cayes that established a local bakery—I would like to see that project replicated. Given the violence, insecurity, and vulnerability to natural disasters, Haiti remains a challenging place to work. And at the same time, given the history of racism, colonialism, and exploitation on the part of the US, it seems to me that Haiti is exactly where we belong.

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Haiti: Celebrating the Jean Marie Vincent Center in Gros Morne

We have been writing a great deal about the multiple crises in Haiti as well as the treatment of migrants from Haiti in Mexico and at the United States border. Sometimes it feels as though keeping up with these very important issues takes time away from celebrating the wonderful work that is also happening in Haiti, in particular with our partners at the Jean Marie Vincent Formation Center in Gros Morne. So, today we want to update on the activity of the JMV Center and also discuss a little bit how the program is fairing in light of the political and economic challenges the country is facing.

As a quick overview, our work with the Jean Marie Vincent Formation Center began in 1999. At the time, we were called upon to support a community initiative to reforest a mountain slope on the edge of town. Erosion from the mountain was causing the river to silt up and led to mudslides during the rainy season. That mountain, Tet Mon, is now home to 200,000+ trees. It was an effort that launched the Center onto its current multifaceted programs to assist smallholder farmers and other families in the area. The programs all emerge in response to locally identified needs and strategies, though expertise on things like planting techniques to isolate pests infesting sweet potato harvests, or determining the optimal percentage of soy to put in chicken feed, is welcome from anywhere.

There are three broad areas of work, and multiple projects within each: Reforestation, material support and formations to small farmers throughout the communal sections of Gros Morne, and the gardens and facilities at the JMV Center itself. Despite the crisis impacting the country, which has been felt by everyone in Gros Morne in different ways, the program keeps going.

Reforestation

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Every year, the tree nursery at the JMV Center and related satellite nurseries distribute 50,000 to 60,000 trees. The number of seedlings that make it from the Center and into the ground varies due to weather conditions. Having young trees prepped and ready to get into the ground when the rains come is always the goal. Drought or flooding, however, can ruin the best-laid plans.

Yet, over the last 5 years, the team has given out nearly 260,000 trees. The trees are distributed through community organizations and schools, and the delivery of trees is always accompanied with training about how to take care of the trees. In addition to reforestation trees, there is an emphasis on the delivery of fruit-bearing trees that provide both food for families and a potential source of income.

A particularly innovative project the agronomy team from the JMV Center is engaged in is Project Lorax. This project provides trees to families for the purpose of sustainable charcoal harvesting. Cutting trees for charcoal is often listed as one of the chief causes of deforestation in Haiti. Yet, the practice is necessary for many families to earn an income. Project Lorax is an effort to engage that reality but in a sustainable way. Trees are planted in three year cycles.  Families that participate are offered incentives to care for the trees. At the end of the third year, the trees are ready for harvest. 40,000 sapling trees have been delivered over the past 3 years in Perou as a testing site.

Formations

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The team from the JMV Center engages in training on a variety of themes. In recent years, the topics that have led to the greatest number of workshops are planting techniques to minimize weevil infestation in local harvests, planting yard and patio gardens (alongside participation with JMV Center’s seed bank), and water preservation (workshops on drip irrigation as well as maintenance and use of water cisterns).

Several years ago, a weevil infestation was destroying sweet potato crops throughout the communal sections of Gros Morne. Sweet potatoes are a staple crop for families in the area, and losing 40-50% of the plants was devastating to small farmers. The agronomy team at the JMV Center immediately went into action, using the JMV garden as a test site to develop planting techniques using special “weevil traps.” Over the last several years 2,000 families have benefited from agronomy team workshops on these planting techniques. Not only has the weevil infestation been contained, but bringing farmers into the program, the team has been able to also share additional knowledge about soil and water preservation, crop rotation, double digging garden plots, and so on. The result is that yields have increased.

The agronomy team has also worked with 2,200 families participating in the seed bank program. The seed bank purchases vegetable seeds at bulk prices, often in the “off-season” when prices are lower. It is also used for bean and corn deposits, cuttings for sweet potatoes and yams, and other tubers. In preparation for the planting seasons, the agronomy team organizes workshops to help families prepare yard and patio gardens, as well as prepare fields for planting. The seed bank provides the service of storage, and encourages, through the resulting lower cost for seed purchases, participation in formations through which sustainable techniques are given to farmers.

Sustainable water use is probably the biggest challenge facing small farmers. Rainfall is unpredictable, and extended periods of drought conditions are not uncommon. Over the last year, the agronomy team from the JMV Center has been doing trainings on drip irrigation that are accompanied by the installation of water cisterns (the water cisterns were the result of a donation from the Sisters of Mercy Haiti program).

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The Jean Marie Vincent Formation Center

Father Jean Marie Vincent. Image: Haiti Information Project

The bulk of Quixote Center resources that go to support the work of the JMV Center is actually expended keeping the infrastructure in place. This means purchasing fuel, purchasing project inputs like seed bags and root trainers, and covering the salaries of agronomy team members. At the heart of this work is the Center itself. The JMV Center is hosted on land donated by the Monfortan Brothers in honor of the last Father Jean Marie Vincent, a staunch advocate for peasant farmers who was gunned down in Port au Prince in 1994 during the last months of the Cedras’ coup regime.

Father Vincent’s vision for Haiti’s smallholder farmers was tied to education and liberation. Father Vincent eschewed a charity model of church engagement. He wanted to see Haiti’s farmers have access to the tools they needed to sustain their livelihoods, and he was willing to challenge the country’s elite to create the space for this to happen.

This is a vision that still animates the work of the Jean Marie Vincent Formation Center, and that of the Quixote Center.

If you like the work we are doing in Haiti, you can donate to support it here.

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Week of Action Against Deportation

This week, we are joining the Black Alliance for Just Immigration (BAJI), the Haitian Bridge Alliance, and other local and national organizations on a week of action in defense of Black immigrants. With waning media coverage of the administration’s horrible treatment of Haitian migrants in Texas since mid-September, the Biden administration believes that it can now sweep ongoing mistreatment of Haitians and other Black migrants under the rug.

Now is the time to mobilize and to show the administration that we are watching—and that we’ve had enough.

Yesterday, our community partners in New Orleans at Unión Migrante organized a march to City Hall for immigrant justice. Later this week, there are actions planned in Washington D.C., California, Louisiana, New York, Florida, Texas, Massachusetts, Arizona, and North Carolina. Visit the No More Deportations website, or click the link HERE, to find an action in your area.

And if you don’t see an action near you? Get together a few friends and community members, use the Haitian Bridge Alliance toolkit to organize your own, and add click “Host an Event” on the No More Deportations website. An action could be as simple as a small vigil in honor of the families and children deported under Title 42, or a rally in front of a local or federal government building.

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Removal flights to Haiti continue at a slower pace, Title 42 must be ended!

Between September 19 and October 5, the Biden administration expelled over 7,200 people to Haiti on 67 flights. Between February 1 and September 15, the Biden administration deported 2,140 people on 37 flights.

So, since taking office Biden has expelled 9,300 people to Haiti on 94 flights. Three-fourths of those expulsions have happened over the last two weeks. The Biden administration has also repatriated 400 people interdicted at sea.

Though the pace of the flights has fallen off considerably from last week, they are ongoing. What this has looked like between September 19 and October 5:

  • 67 flights total
  • 7,200 people expelled, 
  • 19% of those expelled have been children, 56% adult men, 25% adult women.

Where did these flights go?

  • 43 flights to Port-au-Prince
  • 24 flights to Cap-Haitien

Where did the flights come from?

  • 1 flight originated in Alexandria, Louisiana
  • 2 flights originated in Brownsville, Texas
  • 3 flights originated in San Antonio, Texas
  • 28 flights originated in Laredo, Texas
  • 33 flights originated in Harlingen, Texas

Immigration policy is also a big business….

  • 6 flights were flown by Global Crossing Airlines
  • 7 flights were flown by Eastern Airlines
  • 22 flights were flown by World Atlantic Airlines
  • 32 flights were flown by iAero Swift Air

Finally, the International Organization on Migration, which provides assistance to people upon their arrival in Haiti, is underfunded. People are supposed to receive 10,000 Hatiain gourde upon their arrival (about $100) to help with resettlement. A ridiculously low amount, all things considered. But IOM has been giving out 1,000 HG instead – enough, maybe, to get a bus from Cap-Haitien back home. In Port-au-Prince, people were reportedly receiving 5,000 HG with a promise of more via Mon Cash. The Biden administration had promised to provide assistance to returned individuals and families, but has not yet delivered that assistance to IOM..

The issue remains Title 42

Underlying the debacle that continues to unfold for Haitians this month, is the Biden administration’s commitment to enforcement of the Trump era policy of expelling asylum seekers under a faux public health order using “Title 42” authority. 

While we’ve had plenty to say about Title 42 over the last 18 months, the best thing said about it recently is from Harold Koh, who became the latest member of the administration to resign in disgust over Biden’s treatment of Haitians. From Koh’s resignation letter:

The current Title 42 expulsion policy applies to individuals who are already in the United States, and to whom our legal obligations under the Refugee treaties and parallel statutes have undeniably attached. Migrants who arrive at the border are not screened for fears of persecution upon return unless they affirmatively raise their fear, in what is informally known as the “shout test.” To establish that fear, the migrant show more than a reasonable possibility of fear, but must instead meet a higher “more likely than not” standard, i.e., the standard for ultimately prevailing on the merits by showing that they have at least a 51% chance of being persecuted or tortured if returned. There have also been disturbing reports that some migrants were not even told where they were being taken when placed on deportation flights, learning only when they landed that they had been returned to their home country or place of possible persecution or torture, i.e. the exact act of refoulement that is forbidden by the CAT and the Refugee Convention! In my legal opinion, as former State Department Legal Adviser and as former Assistant Secretary of State for Democracy, Human Rights and Labor, the “shout test” and the higher screening standard inevitably create an unacceptably high risk that a great many people deserving of asylum will instead likely be returned to countries where they fear persecution, death, or torture.

On Haiti specifically, Koh has this to say:

Continuation of Title 42 flights to Haiti is particularly unjustifiable in light of its designation for TPS status due to “extraordinary and temporary conditions” that “prevent its nationals from returning safely.” TPS applies to Haitians already present in the United States as of July 30, 2021, regardless of their immigration status. The Haitian TPS designation announcement in May cited “serious security concerns, social unrest, an increase in human rights abuses, crippling poverty, and lack of basic resources, which are exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic.” And that was before the assassination of President Moïse thrust the country into even greater political instability and a devastating earthquake on August 14, 2021 and Tropical Depression Grace on August 16, 2021 further devastated the impacted area, degrading infrastructure throughout the country. Following the 2010 earthquake, the Obama Administration suspended deportations to Haiti for over a year and thereafter resumed them only on a limited basis for five additional years until 2016, when DHS found that “the situation in Haiti has improved sufficiently to permit the U.S. government to remove Haitian nationals on a more regular basis.” Yet conditions in Haiti are far worse today than they were then.

Koh’s resignation once again thrusts Biden’s commitment to Title 42 as a policy choice into the spotlight. The administration continues to insist that Title 42 is necessary – even if the practice of Title 42, at least as it has applied to Haitians, makes absolutely no sense from a public health standpoint.

Daniel Foote briefs the House Foreign Affairs Committee

The other high profile resignation from the Biden administration was Daniel Foote. Foote had been appointed by the Biden administration as a Special Envoy to Haiti shortly after Moise’s assassination. He resigned two weeks ago over a combination of disgust at the deportation policy, as well as citing his frustration with the Biden administration’s interference in the political crisis, especially the blanket support of interim (unelected) prime minister Ariel Henry.

On Thursday, Daniel Foote will brief the House Foreign Affairs Committee on the issues that led to his resignation. That hearing will be live-streamed. You can watch that here.

 

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United States loses its mind over Haitian migration yet again

Between Sunday, September 19 Thursday, September 30, the Biden administration sent at least 57 deportation flights to Haiti. That represents more than 6,000 people expelled in less than two weeks. For some perspective, over the previous 11 months, the United States had sent 37 deportation flights to Haiti. With the fiscal year ending September 30th, flights to Haiti from the United States will come to 95, making Haiti the country with the most removal flights this year other than Mexico.

The flights, and other mass removals, are in response to an large increase in Border Patrol encounters in the Del Rio sector in Texas over a two week period. People outside of Texas were made aware of this by the spectacle of close to 15,000 people camped under the bridge between the river and the Del Rio port of entry. In response to this situation, the BIden administration worked quickly to clear people out from under the bridge. Pushing half of them back into Mexico, and then quickly deporting many of the rest, as well as others captured by Border Patrol in mid-September.

Based on the response to this situation, you might be thinking that there is a real crisis with Haitain migration these days. Certainly you are being encouraged to think that. The reality is that Haitians have made up a small proportion of people encountered at the border this year. 

From October 1, 2020 to the end of August 2021, Border Patrol “encountered” 1.74 million people. Of these, 30,000 were from Haiti. That is about 1.7% of the total. Over the last two weeks, there were an additional 14,000 or so folk from Haiti encountered by Border Patrol, in a month that will see about 200,000 total encounters, that represents 7% of the total encounters for the month, and may bring the annual portion of Haitians encountered to 2.5-3% of the total.

Almost all of these encounters took place in the Del Rio sector – the crossing of choice in recent months for folk from Haiti, Venezuela, and Cuba as well as the far greater numbers of folk from Central America and Mexico. Del Rio is now the second busiest CBP sector behind only the Rio Grande Valley. That so many people were detained in a relatively short period of time in September strained the system, to be sure, but it was not as though the spectacle that unfolded under and around the Del Rio bridge was necessary. The numbers were not that extraordinary by the standards set over the last 9 months. 

We really need to pause and ask why the maybe 45,000 refugees from Haiti encountered this year, out of close to 2 million people detained and/or expelled at the border overall, constitute a crisis of such enormity that common sense and due process have been set aside in such a spectacular manner leading the United States to engage in a level of cruelty unusual even by the very low standards we normally set in this regard.

And now….more Haitians are coming! 

“Hipster imperialist” zine, Vice, “broke” this story on Friday. Citing a grad student who studies Caribbean migration, Vice reports that “at least” 20,000 Haitians are currently making their way through Central America at this very moment, intent on coming to the United States. If they make it to the border the result will be a “hot mess.” Since they can’t be allowed in (politics, you know), and mass deportations could “backfire,” Biden may need to reach out to South American countries and others to stem “the flow” at the source.

This analysis was supplemented by Reuters, and then covered in The Hill. By Thursday the number of Haitians reportedly scattered between Panama and the United States border was being estimated at 80,000. Scary numbers. Right? Wrong. 

The reality is that thousands of people from Haiti have been leaving Brazil and Chile (where hundreds of thousands resettled after the 2010 earthquake) for about 7 years now. The first period of a significant increase in migration came in 2015-2016 following an economic recession in Brazil. The Obama administration, as noted above, treated them the way the United States always does – they were denied entry, and the US renewed/expanded deportations for those already here as a “deterrent.”

In both Brazil and Chile, COVID-19 has had a dramatic impact over the last 18 months, squeezing their economies which in turn has led to a squeeze on migration. Chile had already begun restricting new arrivals from Haiti – and back in January 2020 was conducting its own deportation flights to Haiti.  

As a result of border closures, Haitians (and thousands of other migrants) were held up in Panama for much of 2020, where many are again being denied entry. Haitians and others are also currently being held up near Jalapa, Nicaragua because Honduras is restricting access. WIthin Honduras, Haitians and others have been denied use of transportation. And, as we have also been reporting for months now, as many as 30,000 Haitians have been held up in Mexico, some for almost two years. 

The story here is not “20,000 Haitians on the move.” The story is that the United States has pushed its own border enforcement measures all the way back to Panama. As a result, Haitians, Cubans, Venezuelans, Pakistanis, Indians, Cameroonians, Nigerians and other “extra-continental” refugees are being targeted by regional governments, detained, and in some cases removed, long before they arrive at the US border. All of this must be understood in the context of a regional migration crisis impacting hundreds of thousands of people.

So, 20,000 Haitians or more may well arrive at the US border in the next few months. But so will 600,000 or more other people who are not from Haiti. And if the folks from Haiti arrive in larger groups, it will be because they have been detained as such along the way.

The treatment of Haitians on our border right now would NOT happen to any other group of immigrants. It’s not like Hondurans, Mexicans and Venezuelans are treated well, mind you. But Haitians are singled out for a special brand of cruelty as Haitian immigration has always been some kind of line in the sand for the US government. 

If there is any silver lining to the current mania over more Haitians arriving, it is that the administration has plenty of time to prepare to receive people humanely. Customs and Border Protection brags that they process 650,000 people every day! Certainly they can shift some resources to handle an increase of a 400-500 a day in a sector over a two week period. I mean they know they will need to have more asylum screeners on hand who speak Haitian Creole and can be ready to process people in a safe, efficient manner.  Of course they’ve already had plenty of time to do this – like 7 years to be exact – and have thus far failed.  But they will have no excuse now.

For the time being!

Keep the pressure up. Contact your members of Congress. Ask them to speak out – you can do that using our form by clicking the take action button below. And keep calling the White House [202-456-1111] with a simple message – Halt the Removals NOW!

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Del Rio: How to make 15,000 people disappear in a week

International Office on Migration details on removal flights (click to enlarge)

On Friday, September 17, there were 15,000 refugees under a bridge in Texas seeking entry into the United States. Most of them were from Haiti. A week later, they were all gone. What happened to 15,000 migrants in the space of 7 days? 

The numbers below are not precise, and, to be clear, people came and went from the camp, so likely more than 15,000 people were there at some point during the week. DHS also reports that there were 30,000 encounters in the Del Rio sector overall (including the camp), starting on September 9 to September 24. So some of the deportation and expulsion numbers reflect that reality as well.

Based on press reports and feedback from folk who have spent the week in Del Rio, this is a rough outline of what has happened to people from the camp, and others arrested by Border Patrol in the area.

Expelled to Mexico: According to Secretary Mayorkas, 8,000 people “voluntarily” returned to Mexico. “Voluntary ” in this case means being told to go back across the river or be deported back to Haiti. Mexico has been reluctant to accept Title 42 expulsions from Haiti until now, yet, received them this time. This is a reminder that Obrador refuses to say “no” to the United States on immigration no matter how abusive the request. Those “voluntarily” expelled back to Mexico were mostly bussed away from the border once there, many to Tapachula, Chiapas. Others were flown from Reynosa to Tapachula or Villahermos in Southern Mexico by Mexican immigration authorities. For those who evaded INM at the border they are now targets for arrest and detention.

Of course, many people had fled from Tapachula over the last few weeks – some after waiting months, or even years, for a decision on their asylum claims within Mexico. Unable to leave the state legally until a having received a decision from COMAR, and with no work available in Tapachula, in desperation people began leaving in large numbers at the beginning of September following a crackdown by INM and national guard on several caravans protesting conditions in Tapachula. The crisis in Tapachula was the precursor to the disaster in Del Rio. By flying and busing people back there now, the situation will simply continue to decline. 

Expelled on ICE Air Operation flights: From Sunday, September 19 to Monday, September 26 the United States flew 37 removal flights to Haiti. The flights will continue into this week and possibly beyond. The pace of flights has been so intense that ICE Air Operations began flights to Cap-Haitien in addition to Port-au-Prince, and expanded its roster of sub-contractors. iAero, the company that gets 95% of all ICE Air flights, also got the lion’s share of these flights, but World Atlantic Airline and Global Crossing Airlines were also paid for flights this week. Lest we forget, there is a lot of money in official cruelty – one reason we keep doing it.

Immigration and Customs Enforcement, which oversees these flights, never gives out details. We can estimate from 32 flights that close to 3,400 people have been deported through Sunday – with 6 flights on Monday the total will be over 4,00o soon. CNN reported 1,424 on 12 flights as of Wednesday last week based on data from the International Organization on Migration office in Haiti – 40 were children who did not hold a Haitian passport). 

If Biden keeps up this pace there will be 6,000 to 7,000 people expelled to Haiti over a two week period. I cannot think of another country to receive this heavy concentration of expulsions in such a short period of time – especially considering that Haitians have made up a very small number of encounters at the border so far this year (less than 2%). 

It is reported that Mexico will begin removal flights to Haiti next week – so many of the 8,000 people expelled to Mexico may still be deported to Haiti anyway. This is “chain refoulement” and illegal under international law – but then just about everything that happened this week has been illegal under international law.

Detained while awaiting expulsion: Many of the people remaining in the United States are in detention facilities. Early in the week, Border Patrol began bussing, and flying people to other ports of entry to be held pending removal. People have been detained all along the border from Eagle Pass to Pearsall to the family holding center at Dilley. Mayorkas’ comments earlier in the week suggested as many as 6,500 people were transferred to other facilities Those not already part of the deportation total above will likely be included unless they receive support from attorneys.

As much as the bridge captured headlines, it is important to understand that Border Patrol has been encountering 6,500-7,000 people a day all summer. Most are expelled under Title 42 immediately, but because of the new strategy of flying, many of those expelled into the interior of Mexico, and many more are detained for days or weeks while awaiting flights. 

The conditions in these Border Patrol facilities are routinely horrendous. Overcrowding hasn’t helped. Reports from inside are of people who are sick, with high fevers, and not getting medical care despite attempted advocacy by attorneys.

The horrendous conditions in the camp in Del Rio, the abuse meted out by Border Patrol agents against migrants, and the horrible detention conditions has led to a civil rights complaint against DHS. The Grio summarized:

Haitian Bridge Alliance, The UndocuBlack Network, Black Alliance for Just Immigration (BAJI) and African Communities Together on Friday sent a letter of complaint…addressed to the department’s head of Office for Civil Rights and Civil Liberties, Katherine Culliton-González.

Highlighting the graphic images and video of U.S. Customs and Border Patrol officers on horseback hitting migrants with horse reins used as whips, the complaint accuses the department of several violations and demands that DHS stop the deportation of migrants who were either victimized by CBP or were witnesses of abuses at the border.

Some families allowed to stay: Other folk, mostly families, have been allowed to stay in the United States for now. Some have been given an order to report to immigration authorities within 60 days – others are in detention awaiting processing. Reports from attorneys in Del Rio are that the documents many people have been given are improperly filled out by Border Patrol agents and some contain no dates. This kind of sloppy care at intake is often a problem for people who later seek asylum. It is hard to believe it was unintentional. 

It is not clear how many people from Del Rio were permitted entry – thousands to be sure. In San Antonio, Dallas, El Paso and Houston, families were arriving all week to temporary facilities set up mostly by volunteers, who received them and helped them along to the next phase of their journey, wherever that might be. 

According to the Washington Post, DHS officials estimated that 30,000 people were encountered overall in the Del Rio sector over the two week period starting September 9, and that of those 12,400 were allowed to request asylum or other form of protection. That said, it seems that for the 15,000 people in the camp, the majority were expelled. 

While the Associated Press (and any number of Republicans) raised concerns about these admissions undermining Biden’s “deterrent” strategy, it is worth noting that as of September 30th, Biden will not be able to expel families under Title 42 anyway. This follows a Federal court ruling blocking the practice – unless the administration wins an appeal. People allowed to stay will not be expelled any time soon. However, they still face an uphill battle to remain in the United States, as most will likely not be granted asylum in the long run.

Rough summary

If DHS encountered 30,000 people during a two week period, with about half of those ending up under the bridge in Del Rio, the break down is something like this:

12,000+ allowed to apply for asylum or other relief (almost all families w/children). Many of these people are still in detention.

8,000+ summarily expelled to Mexico

6,000 in detention waiting to be expelled – though some might be allowed to stay, certainly people are fighting for them.

4,000 already deported to Haiti as of end of the day, Monday, September 27. (I do not know how many people were expelled to other countries during the last two weeks from Del Rio or the camp specifically).

What to do!

Donate to support legal services: There are a number of groups trying to provide legal support services to those in custody. The folk we work most closely with are with the Haitian Bridge Alliance. They are amazing. You can donate to support their efforts directly here.

Continue to demand that Biden halt these deportations: Call the White House at 202-456-1111, or contact your member of Congress and ask them to speak out against the expulsions. We’ve set up a form to make that easy for you here, or click the take action button below. Following up with a phone call helps, and certainly sharing this update and the alert spreads the word.

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