The song remains the same: The United States in Haiti this week

This week a new interim government was established in Haiti and the United States appointed a special envoy to represent US interests in the effort to move forward on elections, provide security and to offer support for the investigation into Moise’s assassination. Along the way, the Biden administration demonstrated once again the inability of the US government to listen to anybody standing outside the echo chamber clamoring about the indispensable role of the United States in finding a solution. As we’ll see, it is not as though alternative messages from Haitian civil society have been hidden. If there is one positive in the US response thus far it is that there are no occupation troops being deployed – not yet at least. Whether this is an indication that the administration is actually listening, or simply reluctant to engage the optics of US troops moving from Afghanistan to Haiti, is an open question.

A “new” government

Shortly after president Moise was assassinated on July 7, 2021, acting prime minister Claude Joseph took the reins of government. Joseph, the former foreign minister, had been appointed by Moise as an interim prime minister earlier this year but was replaced with Ariel Henry by Moise the day before his death. Henry was never officially sworn in, and thus Joseph, with the support of Haiti National Police head Leonel Charles, declared himself in charge, and was recognized as such by US appointed UN diplomat Helen La Lime a couple of days later. Meanwhile, Henry claimed interim status for himself. Along with the ten members of Haiti’s senate that are technically still in office (though, absent a quorum, the senate cannot actually do business), Henry formed a government with Joseph Lambert as interim president and himself as interim prime minister. Behind the scenes, businessman Reginald Boulos supported the arrangement. It came to light that he had already hired a lobbyist to press the case for a new government with US policy makers before Moise was killed. 

The Lambert/Henry formation never actually took power, but the United States, fearing further turmoil (or more to the point, the lack of negotiating partner to dominate), stepped into the Joseph/Henry divide to negotiate a backroom deal last weekend that led to a new interim government with Henry as prime minister, and Joseph back in his role as Foreign Minister. Jake Johnston, writing in the American Prospect this week, says, “What this really means is that Haiti’s political class is dividing the spoils of government out of public view once again, and negotiating with foreign powers to ensure that whatever emerges is recognized by the international community.” Indeed, in The New York Times this week one can read about how various factions of Haiti’s elite are competing for legitimacy – in Washington – by hiring lobbying firms. 

With a new government in place – not a government with any public legitimacy, or one that emerges from a constitutionally recognized process – the United States can now proceed. And so, on Thursday, Biden appointed Daniel Lewis Foote as special envoy to Haiti. Foote is a career diplomat that once served as Deputy Chief of Mission for the US embassy in Haiti, and, more to the point in this case, was once acting head of the State Department Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement. Foote’s mission:

The Special Envoy will engage with Haitian and international partners to facilitate long-term peace and stability and support efforts to hold free and fair presidential and legislative elections. He will also work with partners to coordinate assistance efforts in several areas, including humanitarian, security, and investigative assistance. Additionally, the Special Envoy will engage stakeholders in civil society and the private sector as we pursue Haitian-led solutions to the many pressing challenges facing Haiti.

There is another way

While this is going on, a conference of civil society leaders representing the Commission for a Haitian Led Solution is being convened this weekend to craft proposals for a more participatory transition plan. Johnston notes:  

This civil society–led organization formed many months ago, bringing together more than 300 organizations representing unions, farmers, churches, anti-corruption activists, feminist movements, human rights organizations, and many others. The conference would have begun earlier, but hotels refused to provide space. Many participants have received pushback from political leaders across the spectrum, and for a clear reason: The commission’s work is a threat to the political class. It is also a threat to the holding of elections later this year.

However, the United States, with Foote pressing the issue, seems determined to press forward with elections in Haiti. The single minded mantra concerning elections is increasingly out of step with the voices of many Haitians, who have been arguing for a different path for months now. This week Haitians were making their case in the United States.

One Wednesday, the Haitian Studies Association, Center for Economic and Policy Research, and other groups sponsored a panel discussion with speakers drawn from Haiti’s vibrant civil society, including the Rosy Auguste Ducena of RNDDH, Velina Elysée Charlier, Nou Pap Dòmi, Magali Comeau Denis, Komisyon pou Jwenn yon Solisyon Ayisyen, Mario Joseph, BAI, Sabine Lamour, SOFA, Josué Merilien, UNNOH/ Konbit and David Oxygène, MOLEGHAF.

The presentation can be watched on Youtube here:

Members of the Commission also briefed members of congress this week. Other members of civil society have met with administration officials in the United States.

The Haiti Response Coalition also released its statement, signed by 146 organizations, calling for policy makers to listen to Haitian voices, including on the question of elections. The letter calls for, 

Ensuring that conditions for fair, participatory, and credible elections are in place before rushing Haiti to the polls. Elections are a fundamental part of the democratic process. However, they must be free and fair and perceived as legitimate in order to strengthen democracy. Elections will not be free and fair without inclusive voter registration, an independent and legitimate electoral body, and the security necessary not only to vote, but also to campaign leading up to election day. Meaningful participation requires that women and other marginalized groups also participate in the electoral process. A race to hold elections on an internationally-imposed timeline risks further eroding democracy in Haiti.  

We note that Foote’s mandate (above) says that he ”will engage stakeholders in civil society and the private sector as we pursue Haitian-led solutions.” Is this just another Democrat lifting progressive language, while bullying ahead with business as usual? Or is Biden finally listening? Of course, we will know by what the US actually does – not what its diplomats say in press releases. And thus far, Biden’s team does not seem to get it, at all. 

But maybe there is a seed here we can nurture. Afterall, what choice do we have?

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Update from Haiti: Ten days since Moise’s assassination

In the ten days since Jovenel Moise was assassinated the international media has been primarily focused on the constantly shifting details of the attack itself. The Haitian police have arrested nearly 30 people for involvement, including nearly 20 Colombians (some with US training background) apparently working under contract with a Miami based security company, run by a Venezuelan ex-pat. Several more Colombians were killed in fighting with Haiti’s police, and others remain at large. A Haitian-American doctor has been arrested as one of the possible “masterminds” behind the plot, and the head of Moise security has also been brought in for questioning. 

Meanwhile, some things remain the same…

In some ways, the division of power within Haiti looks similar to before the July 7th assassination. Claude Joseph as acting prime minister, working alongside Leonel Charles as head of the Haitian National Police, represents the continuity of Moise’s governing coalition such as it was. The political opposition situated in the remnants of Haiti’s senate have nominated Senator Lambert as acting president, and Ariel Henry as acting prime minister, proposing that they assemble an interim government to oversee elections – to be held in 2022. Finally, there are hundreds of civil society organizations who are calling to launch a participatory process of selecting an interim authority to oversee a new electoral process. 

For now, the United States and international community seem to be backing Joseph, though the US did dispatch a team to facilitate conversation between Joseph and the official political opposition. President Biden is dispatching Marines to lock down the US embassy in Port au Prince, but has indicated that more troops from the United States were “not on the agenda.” For now, then, the fear of military intervention has been forestalled. However, the voices of social movement leaders continue to be set aside by US policy makers – which is a dynamic we seek to change.

There continues to be reports of attacks in the popular neighborhoods of Port au Prince, where armed groups have been fighting for weeks now, displacing 14,000 people or more. Security concerns have made reaching some of those displaced nearly impossible for local partners. We have delivered some funding to help those displaced, and are also now raising general funds so that we can respond in other ways to the crisis as well.

A Call to Action from social movements

The message from social movement partners in Haiti and the folk we work with here in the United States is that Haitians must lead in this transition – and not just an acting prime minister. Rather calls for an inclusive process should be heeded. This week a statement was circulated for organizational signatures to lift up this central message alongside other relevant points. The statement includes the following principles to guide further action

A Haitian solution. Haitians should lead in building the path forward. Foreign actors must not impose solutions from abroad. Even prior to Moïse’s murder, Haitian organizations have been building consensus for a transitional government. Foreign governments and international institutions must not overstep their role by declaring who has authority in Haiti, particularly when that conflicts with Haitian law.

We need only look to the recent MINUSTAH mission to see that foreign military interventions fail to create lasting public democratic institutions that are necessary for any country to function. Despite spending 13 years and $7 billion — ten times Haiti’s GDP– the MINUSTAH mission left Haiti with more guns and less democracy. The mission also afflicted Haiti’s citizens with sexual exploitation and abuse, leaving behind hundreds of children fathered by peacekeepers, and was responsible for introducing cholera to Haiti, killing an estimated 10,000 people.

A commitment to a participatory dempcratic process. After decades of foreign intervention and aid policies that have destabilized Haiti, each branch of the Haitian government has been systematically dismantled, and public confidence in Haiti’s governance has declined to nearly nothing. Haitian organizations and civil society have long been calling for a transition government to restore stability, basic security, and democracy. Haiti must have a transition process in order to rebuild its democratic institutions, and this process must be inclusive of all sectors of Haiti’s population. 

Ensuring that conditions for fair, participatory, and credible elections are in place before rushing Haiti to the polls. Elections are a fundamental part of the democratic process. However, they must be free and fair and perceived as legitimate in order to strengthen democracy. Elections will not be free and fair without inclusive voter registration, an independent and legitimate electoral body, and the security necessary not only to vote, but also to campaign leading up to election day. Meaningful participation requires that women and other marginalized groups also participate in the electoral process. A race to hold elections on an internationally-imposed timeline risks further eroding democracy in Haiti. 

Protection for the right to free expression and the right to life. Over the past three years, all Haitian people have learned that there is no safety; there is no guarantee that they will make it home when they leave. Human rights defenders and activists are frequent targets of threats and attacks, and essential health care workers have been injured and killed through kidnappings, attacks and gang violence. Gender-based violence, including rape, has been increasing during this crisis, and thousands of women and girls have been displaced from their homes, making them even more vulnerable. 

Three years ago, on July 6-7, 2018, the emerging evidence that government officials had stolen more than $2 billion from state coffers and rising gas prices sparked the first in a series of protests against corruption and impunity. These massive mobilizations of Haitians across class and political lines marched together to call for accountability and democracy. They were consistently met with brutal repression from the government and indifference from the international community. 

There have been 18 massacres documented in Port-au-Prince over these past three years. Perpetrators have targeted neighborhoods active in opposition protests, and have not been held accountable. Human rights groups have documented connections between officials and the armed groups responsible for these massacres, including Moïse and other government ministers.  Further, some argue that these massacres  constitute crimes against humanity. 

Recognition of how foreign interventions have contributed to current conditions in Haiti. While many are calling Haiti a “failed state”, what we see is the failure of centuries of policies imposed on Haiti by the international community, including aid policies, that prioritized foreign interests and short-term gains over sustainable democracy and prosperity for Haitians. The 2010 earthquake was an opportunity to rebuild Haiti with strong public institutions. However, despite hundreds of millions of aid dollars, Haiti’s entire public administration was outsourced to foreign institutions and NGOs. 

To read the full statement connect HERE. If your organization can sign, you can do so HERE.  The statement with signatures will begin to circulate next week, including to member delegations at the United Nations and policy makers in the United States.

Must See Webinar

Finally, the Haitian Studies Association is sponsoring a webinar with social movement leaders from Haiti on Wednesday July 21 from 11:00 to 12:30 EDT. Participants are:

Moderator: Mamyrah Dougé-Prosper, University of California, Irvine

Panelists: Rosy Auguste Ducena, RNDDH; Velina Elysée Charlier, Nou Pap Dòmi; Magalie Comeau Denis, Komisyon pou Jwenn yon Solisyon Ayisyen; Sabine Lamour, SOFA; Josué Merilien, UNNOH/ Konbit

The event is Co-Organized by the Haitian Studies Association, Center for Economic and Policy Research, Haiti Response Coalition, Haitian Studies Institute at Brooklyn College, Institute for Justice and Democracy in Haiti, Kimberly Green Latin American and Caribbean Center at Florida International University, and North American Congress on Latin America.

Click HERE to register

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Haitian civil society is clear: No Intervention, support Haitian-led solutions

Twenty-eight people have been arrested by the Haitian National Police for involvement in the assassination of President Jovenel Moïse – including 2 Haitian Americans and 26 men from Colombia, some identified as former military by Colombia’s government. The arrests followed two days of confusing reports about gunfights, attackers taking shelter in the Taiwanese embassy (which is in Petionville, near Moïse’s private residence), and the burning of vehicles thought to have been used in the attack. Colombian police have been present in Haiti for some time. In terms of an official mission, at least, some were brought in to work with the Haitian National Police to assist with confronting the recent wave of kidnappings – a program coordinated by the United States International Bureau of Narcotics and Law Enforcement (INL) .

Details of the attack itself have begun to come out. Maria Abi-Habib, bureau chief for Mexico, Central America and the Caribbean for The New York Times covered many of these details on The Daily podcast this morning. As with everything else, these details leave more questions than answers. The fact that the attackers encountered no resistance in entering Moïse’s residences is of huge concern. Former Senator Steven Benoît appeared on the radio program in Haiti on Friday, and said that Moïse had been killed by his own security people, and that the Colombians had been set up. Le Noveulliste reports that the two Haitian Americans arrested claimed to have been translators, and that the units had gone to the presidential palace to arrest Moïse, not to kill him. 

Whatever the truth is, it is clear that the quick arrests conducted by Haitian National Police have not settled the question.  As Woy magazine noted on Friday, 

Many Haitians were quick to call out the irony of the Haitian National Police (PNH) being so quick to find those allegedly responsible for Moïse’s death as many previous high-profile killings, including that of Mèt Monferrier Dorval (who was shot and killed in his home which is in the same neighborhood as Moïse’s home), Evelyne Sincere, Gregory St. Hilaire, and even that of their very own colleagues who died during the Vilaj de Dye mission remain unsolved. There’s also the case of Matisan, Site Solèy and other parts of the greater Port-au-Prince region are still under the complete control of gangs, crippling parts of the capital and displacing thousands of men, women and children in the process.

Meanwhile, the international response has consisted largely of statements of shock and concern, alongside appeals for calm and condemnations of Moïse’s murder. The United Nations Security Council met on Thursday to discuss Haiti in a closed session. Following the session, Helen La Lime, who heads the UN office in Haiti, said that the government has requested more security support.

The United States Department of State held a press briefing on the situation in Haiti on Wednesday afternoon. The DOS spokesperson indicated that the US still supports Haiti sticking with the elections timeline – a position that was reiterated by Mathias Pierre, Haiti’s Minister for Elections, to The Guardian

Pierre, the elections minister, said on Thursday night that a presidential vote as well as a constitutional referendum that had been slated for 26 September before the assassination of Moïse would go ahead as planned.

“It [the vote] was not for Jovenel Moïse as president – it was a requirement to get a more stable country, a more stable political system, so I think we will continue with that,” Pierre said. He added that preparations had long been under way and millions of dollars disbursed to carry out the votes.

The Washington Post’s editorial board, which had been increasingly militant in its call for foreign intervention in Haiti – even prior to Moïse’s assassination – is now arguing for a military intervention under UN or other auspices. It is not clear how influential this line of argument will be; however, the prospect of a military intervention is clearly a concern.

A Haitian led solution

As Brian Concannon makes clear in his interview with Ian Masters, within Haiti, most people do not want to see a foreign intervention. There were more guns on the street and a severely weakened institutional framework for government when the last UN peacekeeping mission left, relative to the situation before they arrived. The UN mission also introduced cholera through carelessness, and its soldiers were involved in sexual exploitation of young people in the communities they operated in.

There is a broad consensus within Haiti that there should be no foreign military intervention. There should also be no rush to hold elections; rather, an interim authority composed of a wide range of political and civil society actors must be empowered to create the conditions for elections. A statement issued from multiple sectors, including representatives of political parties, and social movement organizations, issued a call for a conference of organizations, “to find a national compromise to resolve the crisis.”  They “ask the international sector to recognize that it is Haitians who must solve Haiti’s problems in order to bring their true solidarity to this Haitian solution.” 

Pierre Esperance, Executive Director of the National Human Rights Defense Network in Haiti, echoes this position in Just Security, writing,

Supporting Haitian solutions for Haiti is not as difficult as it sounds: civil society has known a transitional government would be necessary for quite some time. Civil society has developed a roadmap for a transition. The plan would include, among other things, the need for a transition period of sufficient length to restore electoral infrastructure, to strengthen the judiciary to credibly rule on elections, and to reinforce police capacity to counter gang violence and ensure a safe environment for elections. The Commission for a Haitian Solution to the Crisis – a body created in January 2021 with the support of more than 300 notable Haitian organizations and institutions, including the Episcopal and Protestant churches (as well as my own organization, the National Human Rights Defense Network) – is the latest iteration of this effort. This commission has already met with Haitian political parties, civil society organizations, and the private sector to build out a plan for a feasible political transition.

In short, there is a clear need for an investigation in to assassination of the president – as called for in a statement by the Coalition of Civil Society Actors on Friday, and international support for a Haitian-led solution. No intervention.

As Mamyrah Dougé-Prosper and Mark Schuller argue in an excellent analysis published by NACLA

Activists in Haiti are clear that they do not want a foreign invasion or an occupation force. Not only woefully failing at its mission of disarmament, the 15-year UN mission that introduced cholera to Haiti and a wave of sexual violence also provided stability for foreign extractivism and profiteering in tourism, agribusiness, textile, and mining sectors.

It is clear that we do not have the answers today. We may never know who was in on the plot to assassinate Haiti’s president. We need to be asking different questions. Or rather, we need to take on different actions that concretely contribute to a people’s agenda. What if instead of scrambling for news on Haiti and deciphering the real issues from the analyses and opinions of international Haiti experts, we supported the Haitian people’s efforts to tell their own stories and share their own dreams directly with us?

We will be sharing more statements from Haitian civil society organizations in the coming days. You can also check Haiti Watch’s website, which includes statements from Haitian organizations on the crisis over the past several months – most have been translated.

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Jovenel Moïse has been assassinated

Haiti’s acting president, Jovenel Moïse was assassinated this morning. Press reports are largely leaning on a brief statement by interim prime minister Claude Joseph for details. The statement reads (translation, CNN),

“At around one (1) o’clock in the morning, on the night of Tuesday, July 6 to Wednesday, July 7, 2021, a group of unidentified individuals, some of whom were speaking in Spanish, attacked the private residence of the President of the Republic and fatally wounded the Head of State. The First Lady was shot and is receiving the necessary treatment.

“Condemning this heinous, inhumane and barbaric act, the Prime Minister a.i., Dr. Claude Joseph, and the CSPN are calling for calm. The security situation in the country is under the control of the Haitian National Police and the Haitian Armed Forces.

“All measures are being taken to guarantee the continuity of the State and to protect the Nation.

“Democracy and the Republic will win.”

The Miami Herald is reporting that videos show that the attackers claimed to be with the DEA:

The assailants claimed to be agents with the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration, according to videos taken by people in the area of the president’s home. Moïse, 53, lives in Pelerin 5, a neighborhood just above the hills in the capital.

On the videos, someone with an American accent is heard yelling in English over a megaphone, “DEA operation. Everybody stand down. DEA operation. Everybody back up, stand down.”

Sources said the assailants, one of whom spoke in English with an American accent, were not with the DEA.

“These were mercenaries,” a high-ranking Haitian government official said.

Residents reported hearing high-powered rounds fired with precision, and seeing men dressed in black running through the neighborhoods. There are also reports of a grenade going off and drones being used.

Moïse’s assassination comes amidst an escalation of violence in the capital. Over the last month, armed groups have been fighting over control of parts of Port-au-Prince, leading to the displacement of thousands of people in Martissant, Grand Ravine, and Delmas. The southern part of the country has largely been cut off from the capital as a result. During one night last week, June 30, fifteen people were murdered including reporter Diego Charles and opposition activist Antoinette Duclair. 

Adding to the confusion is the question of succession. According to the 1987 constitution, the president of the Court of Cassation (Haiti’s Supreme Court) is supposed to take over as an interim authority, but the head of the court, René Sylvestre, recently died with COVID-19. Moïse had just announced the appointment of Ariel Henry on Monday as the new prime minister, but he has not been approved by the Council of Ministers yet; there is no acting parliament which would normally have to approve a new Prime Minister. Claude Joseph is standing as interim prime minister and will have to work with the Council of Ministers to craft a way forward.  

The United States Press Secretary said, “It’s a horrific crime and we’re so sorry for the loss…we stand ready and stand by them to provide any assistance that’s needed.”

Andy Levin, who chairs the House of Representative’s Haiti Caucus, said, “The murder of Jovenel Moïse is a devastating if not shocking example of the extent to which the security situation in Haiti has unraveled. For months, violent actors have terrorized the Haitian people with impunity while the international community—the United States included, I fear—has failed to heed their cries to change course and support a Haitian-led democratic transition.”

Meanwhile, citing a fear of further instability, the president of the Dominican Republic, Luis Abinader, ordered the Haiti/Dominican border closed.

As this is a developing story, consider checking for regular updates on the Haiti Watch Twitter account. 

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Quixote Center and Nou Pap Dòmi raising support for people displaced by violence in Haiti

Thousands of people have been displaced from the communities of Martissant, Fontamara, and Grand Ravine due to conflicts between rival gangs in those areas. A gymnasium in Carrefour has been turned into a shelter, and many more are simply living in Fontamara square or alongside roadways. As reported in Al Jazeera, 

On Monday, UNOCHA said gang violence had displaced about 10,000 civilians in Port-au-Prince between June 1 and 14, while the total number of internally displaced people (IDP) so far this year sits at 13,900.

The agency said less than a third of all IDPs are currently receiving assistance, due to limited resources and access, while “frequent shootings and regular roadblocks are limiting access to entire neighbourhoods and spreading fear among the population”.

Quixote Center and Nou Pap Dòmi are working with families to distribute needed emergency supplies in Martissant. You can contribute here.

UNICEF, which has a presence in Carrefour, has assembled powerful testimonies of some of the people displaced here

Gang warfare is hard to disaggregate from the political situation, and is a prime example of why so many are arguing that elections can not happen in this environment. From the St. Kitts Observer:

Pierre Espérance, executive director of the Haitian National Human Rights Defense Network, said gangs control about 60% of the country´s territory and that 12 massacres have been reported since 2018 in disadvantaged communities. However, he said he is especially worried about the most recent upswing in violence.

In this handout released Tuesday, June 15, 2021 by UNHaiti, internally displaced people sit inside a shelter at the Center Sportif of Carrefour in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, Tuesday, June 8, 2021. A UNICEF report says that escalating gang violence has displaced thousands of women and children in the capital in the first two weeks of June. (Boulet-Groulx/UNHaiti via AP)

“It’s the worst we´ve seen,” he said. “Gangs have so much power, and they are tolerated. … Each day that passes with Jovenel in power, the situation is going to deteriorate.”

If you want to support humanitarian aid efforts for internally displaced Haitians, please make a financial contribution here

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Mexico Fails to Comply with the Recommendations of the Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination Related to the Protection of Migrants and Asylum Seekers

 

[Original PDF Spanish, and English]

June 1st 2021

We call on Mexico to implement the recommendations that various human rights mechanisms have made in the context of the protection of human rights of migrants, asylum seekers and human right defenders that work with them.

In the context of the 103rd Session of the United Nations Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (CERD) – and its follow-up letter to the Mexican government – our organizations join the Committee’s findings on the lack of implementation and the insufficient implementation of some of the recommendations made in 2019. In particular, after almost two years, the implementation of recommendations related to migrants, asylum seekers and those requiring complementary protection is inadequate and the current situation is, in fact, a regression.

The lack of implementation of the CERD recommendations by Mexico is framed in the context of migration policies towards militarization, criminalization, systematic detentions and use of force that incite discrimination against migrants and asylum seekers. This context has been aggravated after the implementation of measures to control the Covid-19 pandemic.

We have witnessed an increased number of security forces, including the military and the National Guard Forces (NGF), in migratory verification and control tasks. From June 2019 to December 2020, the military and the NGF detained 152 thousands migrants in the southern border. The National Defence Ministry (SEDENA) – and not the NGF – conducted 67% of this detentions, including the detention of 27 thousands children.

We have identified an excessive, arbitrary, and indiscriminate use of force during the “caravans” with multiple human rights violations. The same pattern has been identified against protests inside migration detention centers when migrants tried to fight for their rights and better conditions during their detention. Sometimes these protests occur with irreparable consequences, like the death of a Guatemalan migrant in the Migrant Detention Center in Tenosique in April 2020.

We have also documented how the National Institute of Migration (INM) has denied access to the asylum-seeking procedure for those needing international protection. Those who have expressed the  intention to access this proceeding have on many occasions been sent to detention centers without appropriate revision of their requests. Our organizations have even documented that people with asylum-seeking requests, or with recognized refugee status, have been detained and deported to countries where their lives are at risk.

Furthermore, with the arrival of African and Asian migrants, as well as from Haiti, the Mexican government has not adopted an integral migration policy to respond to their needs, such as adequate interpretation and enough human rights information.

The racism against people and families from Haiti – for those who have been victims of violence, trauma and family separation – is institutional. One of these cases is Maxene André who died on the 6th of August 2019 inside the Migration Centre “Siglo XXI” in Tapachula, Chiapas. André was sick and isolated for 15 days out of the 20 days that he was in detention.

The response by the Mexican government and institutions has incited xenophobia and discrimination against migrants entering through the southern border, particularly by deploying the INM at the borders in collaboration with the NGF and members from the SEDENA to stop migrants and asylum seekers to enter, especially through the southern border. These practices have been documented and published in different press-releases and reports, in which the criminalization of people entering to Mexico in “irregular” migration status, and allegedly carriers of a disease, is evident. This situation was more evident with the sanitary measures implemented in the context of the Covid-19 pandemic, which have been not only discriminatory but also with the purpose to deter migration.

On the other hand, there are around 1500 people, mainly from Central America, in vulnerable and risky situations in the camp installed since the 18th of February 2021 in Tijuana city, known as “El Chaparral”. In this camp there are inappropriate sanitary, hygienic, and secure conditions, and a lack of health services and adequate food. In addition, the spread of racist, discriminatory and xenophobic messages and actions creates stressful and tense environments in the camp. Until now, the local and federal authorities have not implemented any humanitarian assistance or preventive measures to address these acts of discrimination.

We also raise awareness of the particular situation of non-accompanied children. On the 11th of November 2020, a Decree was officially published, which modified and reform several articles on migrant children of the Migration Law and the Law on Refugees, Complementary Protection and Political Asylum. However, in practice, the detention of non-accompanied children continues, particularly detentions in inadequate places; being separated from their families, the lack of access to the right to request asylum for themselves. Until now, there are no adequate regulations, protocols, or operative manuals that would effectively implement the reforms.

Lastly, in addition to the widespread context of strengthening migratory policies, our organizations have witnessed intense months of hostilities, harassment, surveillance, defamation and aggressions against human right defenders, shelters and spaces attending migrants. On the 19th of January 2021, during a human rights monitoring activity carried out by the “Colectivo de Observación y Monitoreo de Derechos Humanos del Sureste Mexicano”, human right defenders were followed and kept under surveillance by members of the NGF, SEDENA and the Marine. This happened in a context were human right defenders, shelters and civil society organizations are the ones providing humanitarian assistance and protecting migrants.

During Covid-19, and in addition to acts and statements that criminalize human right defenders, there has been a use of the health emergency to falsely argue that accompanying migrant and defend human rights pose a “risk” of contamination to the local communities. This has been the case in various shelters and for human right defenders such as in the “El Chaparral” camp in Tijuana. For this reason, we are concerned that Mexico did not provide information to the CERD on the implementation of the recommendations related to the protection of human right defenders working with people on the move.

The lack of governmental actions to implement the Committee’s recommendations is just a sign of the systemic denial of the fundamental rights of thousands of migrants and asylum seekers who are discriminated against because of their nationality.

We call on Mexico to comply with its international obligations and particularly to implement the recommendations that various human rights mechanisms have made in the context of the protection of human rights of migrants, asylum seekers and human right defenders that work with them.

Signed by,

Centro de Derechos Humanos Fray Matías de Córdova A. C.
Franciscans International
Programa de Asuntos Migratorios, Universidad Iberoamericana Ciudad de México Red Franciscana para Migrantes en Centroamérica, México y Estados Unidos
Red Franciscana para Migrantes en México
Red Jesuita con Migrantes Centroamérica y Norteamérica
Servicio Jesuita a Refugiados México

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In the wake of Supreme Court TPS decision Congress should pass the Dream and Promise Act

Yesterday the Supreme Court ruled that people who currently have Temporary Protected Status, but who entered the United States without having been “inspected,” are not eligible to become permanent residents. 

The ruling came in the case Sanchez vs Mayorkas. Sanchez, originally from El Salvador, entered the United States without inspection in the mid-1990s. As a result of El Salvador’s TPS designation in 2001, Sanchez became lawfully present in the United States, and was granted temporary status to work. In 2014 Sanchez applied for lawful permanent residence and was denied because he had never been formally inspected at the border and granted a lawful entry. 

The Supreme Court upheld that decision in a unanimous ruling yesterday arguing that “eligibility for LPR status generally requires an “admission,” the lawful entry of the alien into the U.S. after inspection and authorization by an immigration officer. Sanchez did not enter lawfully and his TPS does not eliminate the effect of that unlawful entry.”

Advocates had argued that because TPS requires an application and review, such a process was in essence the equivalent of a lawful inspection at the border. The Court disagreed. 

It is important to underline that the decision was concerning the ability of someone who had entered the country unlawfully to later apply for permanent residency. The ruling was not about TPS directly, and does not affect anyone’s TPS status. The Court simply said that the process of applying for TPS can not stand in for a border inspection under the current legal requirements for becoming a permanent resident.

So, under current law, if someone entered the country lawfully and with an inspection, even if they later overstayed their visa, and are now lawfully present as a result of TPS, they can apply for permanent residency. If they did not enter the country lawfully, they cannot.

Summary from Justia of the ruling

Full text of the ruling

Key takeaways:

  1. This ruling does not impact anyone’s current TPS status
  2. This ruling does not impact the Biden administration’s decision to redesignate Haiti for TPS in any way. People from Haiti present in the U.S. on or before May 21, 2021 will still be able to apply for TPS once it is published in the Federal Register.
  3. This ruling does make clear the need to change the law so there is a pathway to permanent residency and citizenship for people living in the United States, regardless of how they arrived…The Dream and Promise Act would do this. Justice Kagan actually notes this in the ruling (p. 8-9),

Congress, of course, could have gone further, by deeming TPS recipients to have not only nonimmigrant status but also a lawful admission. Legislation pending in Congress would do just that. See American Dream and Promise Act of 2021, H. R. 6, 117th Cong., 1st Sess., §203, p. 29 (introduced Mar. 3, 2021) (amending §1254a(f)(4) so that a TPS recipient shall be considered “as having been inspected and admitted into the United States, and” as being in, and maintaining, lawful status as a nonimmigrant”

Let your Senators know that you support HR6: The Dream and Promise Act, which will extend a path to citizenship for TPS holders as well as Dreamers [people who “unlawfully” arrived in the United States as children, and have qualified for Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA)]. The Congressional switchboard is (202) 224- 3121.

The Dream and Promise Act passed the House last year as well, and then died in the Senate. It may not be taken up for a vote any time soon in the Senate, but always good to let your Senators know you support it.

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Law school clinics at Harvard, Yale and NYU call on Biden to denounce controversial constitutional referendum

The Moise government in Haiti has once again postponed a controversial constitutional referendum. The chair of the electoral counsel announced on Monday, June 7 that the referendum, re-scheduled for June 27, would be indefinitely postponed due to the current COVID-19 outbreak in Haiti..

There is widespread opposition to the referendum in Haiti. First, the referendum seems to clearly violate the current constitution, which does not allow amendment via referendum. Secondly, people are being asked to simply vote yes or no on what is an entirely new form of government. For example, the proposed constitution would concentrate power in the presidency, by eliminating the senate, and also end Haiti’s dual executive form of government, where the president shares power with a prime minister. Finally, there is little trust in Moise, who has ruled by decree since January of 2019 and who many, including members of Haiti’s Supreme Court, argue should have stepped down on February 7, 2021 when his tenure ended in favor of an interim authority to oversee elections.

As the security situation in Haiti continues to decline, the human rights law clinics of Harvard, Yale and New York University School of Law issued a statement calling on the Biden administration to “unequivocally” denounce the referendum, saying it should not simply be postponed, but “should never be held.” The Law Clinics’ joint announcement on the statement’s release reads:

The Global Justice Clinic, the International Human Rights Clinic at Harvard Law School, and the Lowenstein International Human Rights Clinic at Yale Law School issued a statement on June 8, 2021, calling on the U.S. government to heed civil society’s demand and cancel the planned constitutional referendum in Haiti.  The referendum, which will ask Haitian people to vote “yes” or “no” on a new Constitution, is illegal.  It is the most recent, bold effort by President Jovenel Moïse to consolidate power and comes on the heels of dozens of presidential decrees that undermine checks on the executive. Haitian civil society has widely denounced the referendum, noting its illegality and emphasizing the impossibility of holding a vote under the current administration.  International actors are increasingly recognizing the illegitimacy of the referendum, and the danger to democracy that it poses.  However, continued technical support and provision of aid to the government of Haiti to hold elections means that international actors, including the United States government, are tacitly supporting the unconstitutional vote.  With long experience working in solidarity with Haitian civil society, and building off our February statement, the clinics urge the U.S. government to urgently and publicly call to cancel the referendum.

You can read the full statements (and share) in English and Haitian Creole

 

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Haiti: COVID-19 update and the ongoing political crisis

Haiti is experiencing a third wave of COVID-19 infections, and it is quickly emerging as possibly the worst one. Infections were initially concentrated in the north and in Port-au-Prince, but are quickly emerging everywhere. Near our program site in Gros Morne, there are cases at the local hospital, though for now, still manageable. A long overdue shipment of masks from Germany arrived – just as infections were increasing. However, in Port-au-Prince resources are strained. For example, at St. Luke’s hospital, they have run out of beds, and are having difficulty securing oxygen as prices for tanks have increased with the spike in demand.

Graduation ceremonies for the schools have been suspended and exams delayed, though classes themselves have not yet been halted. This could change, or course, but clearly there is a strong desire to finish the school year, already truncated by COVID-19, political protests and security concerns.

We continue to monitor the situation in Gros Morne, but we are not a medical non-profit. For those wishing to provide direct support for medical response to COVID-19 we encourage you to look into St. Luke‘s, which has an historic relationship with the hospital in Gros Morne.  Our own work in Gros Morne in support of ecological programs continues, of course, and we are also part of a team with the Haiti Response Coalition that monitors and reports on the political crisis. Your support for that work is also quite welcome. 

Referendum on the Constitution

Meanwhile, preparations for a constitutional referendum – itself likely unconstitutional – continue. Despite widespread opposition to the referendum within Haiti, and multiple statements of concern from without, the referendum is set for June 27 barring a delay over COVID-19. Jake Johnston from the Center for Economic Policy Research wrote an excellent new piece for the CEPR blog dissecting the role of the “international community” which is implicitly supporting the referendum, despite public statements to the contrary. Jake writes,

The international community has remained largely silent on the question of the referendum. The Core Group, which consists of the US, Canada, Brazil, France, the EU, the UN, and the OAS, among others, issued a statement in April noting that the process was not sufficiently transparent or inclusive. Nevertheless, international actors have refrained from explicitly calling for its cancellation or even its delay. Further, both the UN and the OAS are actively providing support for the referendum, despite their public statements of concern. 

These two multilateral organizations have provided technical assistance to the commission tasked with drafting the new text since it was formed last fall. The OAS even helped with revisions to the text in an attempt to remove some of the more controversial aspects in the original. The UN, meanwhile, has helped to procure sensitive voting materials for the electoral council overseeing the referendum and has an agreement in place to provide logistics for holding the vote. The UN is also helping to advise the national police on an electoral security strategy. 

Constitutional changes and upcoming elections are obviously closely tied together. For example, proposed constitutional changes would eliminate the senate and thus, change the parameters of the elections completely. So, in addition to the controversy over the referendum itself, there is widespread confusion about what it means for long overdue national elections now scheduled for November.

In the lead up to the referendum, opposition politicians are mobilizing – or encouraging others to mobilize – in an effort to block the vote. For example, Jean Danton Léger, a former member of Parliament, representing Léogâne, called on “all citizens to mobilize to thwart the organization of this referendum, which, he said, was aimed not only at building a presidential monarch, untouchable with permanent immunity and not accountable….but also to institutionalize impunity, legalize gangsterism, and deliver the country entirely to neo-settlers.”

The PBS NewsHour did a program on Haiti which provides a good overview of many of the current concerns regarding elections and the referendum. Though they give a few moments to current U.S. policy, the one weakness here and in much Haiti coverage, is the lack of attention given to historic U.S. responsibility, including efforts by the Obama administration that led to Moise and his predecessor, Michel Martelly, being in power to begin with. That said, it is still worth watching, as Haiti rarely gets this kind of coverage. You can watch the program here.

Elections and the OAS

Finally, the Organization of American States is organizing an official delegation to Haiti. The Permanent Council approved the delegation last week. From the Miami Herald:

The Organization of American States agreed Wednesday to send a five-member delegation to Haiti no later than mid-June to see if they can help the Caribbean nation break a crippling political impasse that could derail presidential and legislative elections this year.

The highly anticipated OAS mission will unfold over three days in Port-au-Prince, cost about $24,000 and consist of the representatives of five member states: Canada, Costa Rica, Ecuador, St. Vincent and the Grenadines and the United States. The U.S. has agreed to pick up most of the tab following the OAS Permanent Council’s unanimous offer in March to the Haitian government to help facilitate a political dialogue.

According to Wednesday’s [May 26] resolution approved by the permanent representatives of the OAS after negotiations, delegation members will be participating in their own capacity but with the permission of their respective governments. They also will be joined by a representative of the general secretariat of the OAS on the trip. The mission will present a report with its conclusions and recommendations within two weeks of its return.

Given the deep polarization in Haiti, the idea of a delegation to offer mediation toward a more sustained dialogue sounds like a great idea. However, the concern is that the delegation could well end up parroting official U.S. policy 1 which would simply reinforce Moise’s position, and the U.S. demand for elections in the fall. The delegation is not going to be discussing the referendum in any official capacity, though it is hard to see how it does not come up.

 

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Quixote Center delegation and other immigration updates

Temporary Protected Status Update

The biggest news we have shared in recent weeks is the redesignation of Haiti to receive Temporary Protected Status. This happened on May 22, and impacts people from Haiti who were in the United States on or before May 21. People who qualify for TPS are allowed to stay and work in the United States until it is decided that it is safe for them to return to Haiti. The program is reviewed every 18 months. 

Of course, as with all policy, getting agreement to do something is only half the battle. Getting it done correctly and quickly requires a certain amount of vigilance as well. The Quixote Center joined in with 130 organizations on this letter to the administration asking for TPS to be handled quickly and as inclusively as possible. Please feel free to share among your networks. 

Meanwhile, the campaign to get TPS extended to Central America continues. Nicaragua was one of several countries for whom the Trump administration sought to cancel its TPS designation. The administration was ultimately successful in the case that impacted Nicaragua’s TPS designation (there were several court challenges to Trump’s effort to cancel TPS). So, at the moment, Nicaraguans that have been approved for TPS are still able to stay and work in the United States, but absent a renewal, or redesignation, their protected status will end in October of 2021.

Alianza Americas is leading a coalition effort to get a new TPS designation for countries in Central America impacted by hurricanes Eta and Iota, which hit the region within two weeks of each other in November, as well as ongoing violence. The call is for redesignation for Honduras, Nicaragua and El Salvador, and designation for Guatemala (which has not received TPS before). 

There is a week of action under way. You can check Alianza Americas and Presente.org’s toolkit for social media posts and other ideas, and to sign their petition here. 

The Biden Administration formally ends the “Remain in Mexico” program

Of the many things the Trump administration did to gut the United States’ asylum system, one of the better known, and often brutal, tactics was the Orwellian named “Migrant Protection Protocol.” Under the provisions of this program people seeking asylum at the U.S./Mexico border were made to wait on the Mexico side of the border for a hearing with U.S. immigration judges. People were forced to wait for months, and ultimately years once hearings were suspended due to COVID-19 restrictions last March. MPP ultimately directly impacted over 71,000 people.

People waiting in Mexico were frequently victims of cartel violence and kidnappings. Human Rights First documented 1,500+ cases of people enrolled in MPP who were attacked while in Mexico.

When the Biden administration came into office, they immediately halted new enrollments into MPP. At the time, new enrollments were fairly limited because most asylum seekers were (and still are) removed under a different program, the public health order currently keeping the border locked down to asylum seekers: Title 42. The January suspension did signal the beginning of Biden’s DHS clearing MPP cases – or, allowing those still waiting in Mexico a chance to register and enter the U.S. to await asylum hearings here.

On June 1, 2021, DHS Secretary Mayorkas announced the formal closure of the Migrant Protection Protocol, ending one (of many) of Trump’s border debacles. 

With MPP formally closed, it seems that Biden should now begin the process of winding down Title 42 expulsions. 

Detentions going up, and up

With the end of the Migrant Protection Protocol, and a lower percentage of people being expelled under Title 42 (though still huge numbers overall), the number of people in detention is going up rapidly. While Biden entered office with a commitment to minimize the use of detention, the U.S. immigration system is sadly designed as an inherently punitive system, and detention has been its centerpiece since the early 1980s. So more people are being admitted, but many of them are being placed in detention while being processed.

Because of Title 42 expulsions, and a modest slowdown in internal enforcement operations in the spring of last year, the number of people held in immigrant detention facilities fell to an all time low by the end of January in 2021 – less than 13,000 for the first time in over 20 years.

As of May 28, 2021 that number is up to 23,107  As outlined by TRAC, the increase is almost entirely the result of people being redirected to ICE detention by Border Patrol. 

The Quixote Center and Franciscan Network on Migration: “Delegation and Witness at Mexico’s southern border”

September 19 to 25, 2021
Tenosique, Salto de Agua, and Palenque in Mexico and
El Ceibo,
Guatemala (dependent on border restrictions)

Join the Quixote Center and the Franciscan Network on Migration on a delegation to southern Mexico to examine the impact of U.S. policy on Mexico’s immigration enforcement on its southern border. The Franciscan Network on Migration connects the work of migrant shelters run by Franciscans in Central America and Mexico. The Quixote Center is a member of the network, and also works with community groups in Nicaragua and Haiti.

The focus of the delegation: Under pressure from the United States, Mexico has cracked down on migration along its southern border with Guatemala: The result is an expansion of security forces patrolling in border states, changes to visa rules, increased us of detention, and since March 2021, the closure of the border with Guatemala to all but “essential” travel. These pressures have come from both Trump and the Biden administration, and have been further complicated by COVID-19 travel restrictions. 

Join us, as we visit the border to see first hand the impact of these policies, and to meet with immigration rights advocates providing shelter and other relief to migrants crossing into Mexico in this new environment.

The delegation will begin in Tenosique, Tabasco. We will spend a couple of days with people at migrant shelter, La72. We will also meet with UN refugee offices in the area, and if travel restrictions have been lifted, we will visit shelters just across the border in Ceibo, Guatemala. We will also visit shelters in Salto de Agua and Palenque, both in Chiapas. 

How to get involved

The cost of the trip is $995 and includes meals, hotel, all in-country transportation, and translation. The cost of international travel is not included. Delegates must arrive at the airport in Mexico City on Sunday, September 19th. From there we will travel together to Villahermosa, Tabasco (the cost of the connecting domestic flight from Mexico City to Villahermosa is included in the delegation fee). 

You can apply to participate on the delegation here. A deposit of $250 is required by July 1, with balance due August 15.

We require that everyone participating on this delegation provide proof of COVID-19 vaccination.  

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Contact Us

  • Quixote Center
    P.O. Box 1950
    Greenbelt, MD 20768
  • Office: 301-699-0042
    Email: info@quixote.org

Directions to office:

6305 Ivy Lane, Suite 255. Greenbelt, MD 20770

For public transportation: We are located near the Green Belt metro station (green line)