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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Franciscan Network on Migration Participates in UN Dialogue on Human Rights of Migrants

One June 24, 2021 the Advisory Committee of Franciscan Network on Migration collaborated with Franciscans International and together with 30 other organizations (including the Quixote Center) to make a joint Declaration on the harsh reality faced by migrants in Mexico, Guatemala and the United States. The statement as delivered by Ana Victoria López Estrada is below in English and Spanish.

47th Session of the Human Rights Council

Dialogue with the Special Rapporteur on the Human Rights of Migrants

23 June 2021
Delivered by: Ana Victoria López Estrada

Thank you Madame President,

We thank the Special Rapporteur for his report on “pushbacks” and their impact to the human rights of migrants.

We agree with the Special Rapporteur that the principle of non-refoulement is characterized by its absolute nature without any exception. However, we are concerned that the practice to return migrants is performed without an individual assessment and in contexts of militarization of borders, particularly in the United States, Mexico and Guatemala.

We have witnessed an excessive increase of military and security personnel in migratory verification and control tasks.

From June 2019 to December 2020, the military and the Mexican National Guard detained 152.000 migrants on the southern border, including 27.000 children.3 In Guatemala, the Border Patrol has detained and immediately returned migrants, especially during the “caravans” in September 2020 and January 2021, without allowing them to request international protection. These detentions and returns are made with an excessive, arbitrary, and indiscriminate use of force. For these reasons, we are concern by current negotiations between the United States, Mexico and Guatemala on increasing the militarization of their borders. 

Finally, there are hostilities, harassment, surveillance, defamation and aggressions against human right defenders, shelters and spaces supporting migrants, even during the pandemic.

It is urgent that the Council calls on Mexico, the United States and Guatemala to comply with their international obligations and to stop detaining and returning migrants and asylum seekers.

Thank you Madam President.


47° Sesión del Consejo de Derechos Humanos

Diálogo Interactivo con el Relator Especial de los derechos humanos de los migrantes

23 Junio 2021

Presentada por: Ana Victoria López Estrada

Gracias Sra. Presidenta,

Agradecemos el reporte del Relator Especial sobre las “devoluciones en caliente” y su impacto en los derechos humanos de las personas migrantes.

Coincidimos con el Relator en el carácter absoluto e incondicional del principio de no devolución. Sin embargo, nos preocupa que las devoluciones de personas migrantes se realizan de forma masiva sin una evaluación individual y en contextos de militarización de las fronteras, particularmente en Estados Unidos, México y Guatemala.

Somos testigos de un aumento excesivo de las fuerzas armadas militares y de seguridad, en tareas de control y verificación migratoria. De junio de 2019 a diciembre de 2020, las Fuerzas Armadas y la Guardia Nacional Mexicana detuvieron a 152 mil personas migrantes en la frontera sur, incluidos 27 mil niños y niñas.1 En Guatemala, la Patrulla Fronteriza ha detenido y deportado de inmediato a personas migrantes, especialmente durante las “caravanas” de septiembre de 2020 y de enero de 2021, negándoles el derecho a buscar protección internacional. Estas detenciones y devoluciones se hacen con un excesivo, arbitrario e indiscriminado uso de la fuerza. Por eso nos preocupa las negociaciones entre Estados Unidos, México y Guatemala de incrementar la militarización de las fronteras.2

Por último, hay una intensa hostilidad, acoso, vigilancia, difamaciones y agresiones en contra de personas defensoras de las personas migrantes; así como de albergues y espacios de atención a personas migrantes incluso durante la pandemia.

Es urgente que este Consejo exija a los gobiernos de México, Estados Unidos y Guatemala a cumplir con sus obligaciones internacional y abstenerse de continuar con las detenciones y devoluciones de migrantes y solicitantes de asilo

Gracias Sra. Presidenta.

Organizations / Organizaciones

  1. Asamblea Ciudadana contra la Corrupción y la Impunidad – ACCI

  2. Acción Ecuménica por los Derechos Humanos(AEDH)

  3. Asistencia Legal por los Derechos Humanos A.C. (ASILEGAL)

  4. Centro de Derechos Humanos “Fray Francisco de Vitoria O.P” A.C

  5. Centro de Derechos Humanos Fray Matías de Córdova A.C.

  6. Colectiva Luna Celaya

  7. Colectivo de Observación y Monitoreo de Derechos Humanos en el Sureste Mexicano

  8. Congregations of St. Joseph

  9. Dominicans for Justice and Peace

  10. Equipo de Reflexión, Investigación y Comunicación (ERIC-SJ)

  11. Franciscans International

  12. Frontera con Justicia A. C. [Casa del Migrante Saltillo]

  13. Fundación Arcoiris por el respeto a la diversidad sexual.

  14. Grupo belga ‘Solidair met Guatemala’

  15. Jesuit Conference Office of Justice and Ecology

  16. JPIC Familia Franciscana – Guatemala

  17. JPIC HFIC Provincia de Nuestra Señora de Guadalupe

  18. JPIC México- Hogar Franciscano

  19. Kino Border Initiative

  20. La 72, Hogar-Refugio para personas migrantes

  21. Maryknoll Sisters of St. Dominic, Inc.

  22. Peace Brigades International

  23. Programa de Asuntos Migratorios Universidad Iberoamericana Ciudad de México

  24. Protección Internacional Mesoamérica

  25. Quixote Center

  26. Red Franciscana para Migrantes en Centroamérica, México y Estados Unidos

  27. Red Jesuita con Migranres Centro Norteamérica (RJM-CANA)

  28. Red Jesuita con Migrantes – Guatemala

  29. Red Jesuita con Migrantes LAC

  30. Red Nacional de Organismos Civiles de Derechos Humanos “Todos los Derechos para Todas y Todos” – México

  31. Servicio Jesuita a Refugiados

  32. Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur

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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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Haiti Re-designated for Temporary Protected Status

One of the goals you have been working on with us and a host of other organizations was finally achieved this weekend. The news was first announced on Buzzfeed News:

The Biden administration will grant more than 100,000 Haitians in the US the opportunity to gain temporary protected status, shielding them from deportation and allowing them to obtain work permits, according to a Department of Homeland Security document provided to BuzzFeed News.

The decision, which immigrant advocates have been pushing for several months, comes as Haiti suffers from a growing political crisis after the opposition party’s calls for the president to step down failed. Reports of increased gang violence and kidnappings have roiled parts of the country, which is already struggling to deal with the coronavirus pandemic.

The official announcement came on Saturday – and underlined the date of re-designation – May 21, 2021. Only people already here on or before that date are able to apply for TPS (it is not automatic). From the official announcement from the Department of Homeland Security:

WASHINGTON – Today, Secretary of Homeland Security Alejandro N. Mayorkas announced a new 18-month designation of Haiti for Temporary Protected Status (TPS). This new TPS designation enables Haitian nationals (and individuals without nationality who last resided in Haiti) currently residing in the United States as of May 21, 2021 to file initial applications for TPS, so long as they meet eligibility requirements.

“Haiti is currently experiencing 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,” said Secretary Mayorkas. “After careful consideration, we determined that we must do what we can to support Haitian nationals in the United States until conditions in Haiti improve so they may safely return home….”

….It is important to note that TPS will apply only to those individuals who are already residing in the United States as of May 21, 2021 and meet all other requirements. Those who attempt to travel to the United States after this announcement will not be eligible for TPS and may be repatriated. Haiti’s 18-month designation will go into effect on the publication date of the Federal Register notice to come shortly. The Federal Register notice will provide instructions for applying for TPS and employment authorization documentation.

A lot of people have been working on this issue for a long time. Thank you for taking part in the effort. We do not get a lot of victories in this work, so we celebrate the ones we do achieve.

That said, the work never stops. Guerline Jozef, Director of the Haitian Bridge Alliance, who has been everywhere one can be talking about TPS and removals to Haiti, was on MSNBC this morning explaining the decision – and the people not included.

Some other statements on the decision

From the Family Action Network Movement (FANM) statement:

Marleine Bastien, Executive Director of Family Action Network Movement (FANM), stated, “We applaud and commend the Biden Administration’s decision to redesignate TPS for Haiti. During a recent march in Washington on May 18th and a meeting with White House and DHS officials Thursday evening, I sent a strong message to President Biden that given the deteriorating political situation in Haïti including state sponsored massacres, kidnapping/killing of political opponents , widespread raping of women and girls , it was time to redesignate Haiti for TPS and that “Justice Delayed is Justice Denied.””

Steve Forester, Immigration Policy Coordinator for the Institute for Justice & Democracy in Haiti (IJDH), said, “Haiti’s redesignation for TPS recognizes that extraordinary conditions of political and social crisis and insecurity make deportations to Haiti unsafe and redesignation appropriate. We applaud the administration, which since February 1 has expelled about 2,000 Haitians on 34 flights, for this long overdue and entirely appropriate action.”

Legal Defense Fund: Raymond Audain, Senior Counsel at LDF, issued the following statement following the president’s announcement:

“We are encouraged that President Biden has redesignated Haiti for Temporary Protected Status – and that members of the Haitian TPS community now have the security and stability they were unjustly denied for three years as Haiti’s status remained in limbo. While Haiti should have unquestionably received TPS redesignation due to the country’s concerning humanitarian situation alone, the blatantly racist nature of the Trump administration’s decision to revoke its status speaks even further to the rightfulness of today’s decision to undo this deeply discriminatory and shameful action.

Alianza Americas and Presente.org

“We commend the Biden-Harris administration for their decision to provide a new TPS designation for Haitian nationals. This has been one of the demands that many Latin American and Caribbean immigrant communities made early on. The situation in Haiti has been deteriorating with human rights violations, poverty, and social unrest caused by the pandemic, further limiting the ability of Haitians to return safely to their country. Over 100,000 Haitians residing in the U.S. will now be able to live without the fear of being detained and deported back to the country they fled from,” said Oscar Chacón, executive director of Alianza Americas. 

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Immigrant detention is increasing again and so are COVID-19 infections

Throughout the last year, the number of people being held in immigration detention facilities fell. Starting at about 38,000 last March, the number of people being held in detention at the end of February this year was just below 13,000. As we reported throughout the year, the decline was the result of border policies, specifically Title 42 – a controversial public health order under which people are denied access to regular immigration processing, including the right to request asylum. Under Title 42, people have been summarily expelled when encountered at the border- almost all of them within 2 hours of being picked up. A smaller number of people, primarily those who cannot be returned to Mexico, including those from Haiti, are detained for a few weeks before being expelled. 

Under Trump, over 600,000 people were expelled under Title 42 – which meant 600,000+ people that would have been detained for some amount of time under “normal” circumstances, never entered the system.

Since President Biden came into office, Title 42 expulsions have continued, but the percentage of people expelled under Title 42, versus those placed into regular immigration processing channels (“Title 8”) has fallen off – even as the total numbers have gone up all around. In October, 91% of Border Patrol arrests led to immediate removal under Title 42. In March and April, 63% of arrests led to Title 42 removal.

 

The result of more people being redirected into Title 8 processing is an increase in detention. The number of people being held in detention at the end of the first week in May was over 19,000. This represents a 50% increase in detention since Biden took office. This is true, even though Biden issued new enforcement parameters that have seriously reduced internal enforcement arrests (“ICE” in the chart below). As we can see from the table, the increase in detention is all the result of border arrests and transfers from Customs and Border Protection (CBP).

As detention numbers increase, it raises concerns again about exposure to COVID-19 inside detention facilities. Over the course of last year, ICE did very little to adjust its procedures to protect people. It continued to transfer people from facility to facility, it continued to deport people, and within facilities, there was little access to protective equipment and COVID testing. The result was that ICE detention centers became COVID-19 hotspots, leading to the highest annual death rate in years. An investigative report by Detention Watch Network concluded that “between May 1 and August 1 [2020]….ICE detention facilities were responsible for over 245,000 Covid-19 cases throughout the country.” 

Finally, the New York Times reported on the spread of COVID-19 around the world as a result of ICE detention practices and deportations.

Given ICE’s track record, we are rightly concerned about the health of those incarcerated. For one thing, ICE has NO uniform vaccination program. Indeed, even though a federal agency, it has left vaccination decisions to the states and/or localities where its detention facilities are located. So, unlike the Federal Bureau of Prisons, which provided vaccines for federal prisoners, ICE has provided none for those in its custody. The predictable result is that very few people in detention have received a vaccine. Indeed it was during the first week of May, that the first known vaccines for anyone in ICE custody in Texas were provided by Houston’s public health department; 130 doses delivered to the Houston Processing Center.  Meanwhile, in Texas, 402 people are in isolation after testing positive for COVID-19.

System wide, there are currently 2,123 people who have tested positive in ICE custody – or 1 out of 9 people in custody. 

Physicians for Human Rights wrote a letter to the Secretary Mayorkas of the Department of Homeland Security saying,

The number of COVID-19-related deaths in custody, and immediately following release, continues to increase. Although release of people from immigration detention is the most appropriate solution to this crisis, it is also an urgent human rights issue to ensure that detainees have timely access to the potentially lifesaving COVID-19 vaccine. PHR submits this letter based on more than 30 years of experience documenting health and mental health risks in immigration detention, providing medical and psychological evaluations for individual clients, and producing peer-reviewed articles and national research reports, including one based on interviews with 50 people held in ICE detention during the pandemic that shows ICE’s cruel and callous treatment of detainees and failure to ensure safe conditions.

The recommendations in the letter are:

  1. Issue an unequivocal public statement that all people in immigration detention should be vaccinated as a priority population. While acknowledging the important role states and localities play in vaccine rollout, there must be an indication from federal authorities that vaccinating people in immigration detention is a priority. As the agency responsible for ensuring the health and safety of people in immigration detention centers, DHS must play a clearer role in ensuring access to vaccines and coordinating with the appropriate state and local authorities. 
  2. Ensure that vaccine supplies are reserved for people in immigration detention. Consider direct allocation of federal vaccine supplies to detention centers, as the Bureau of Prisons already does for people in other federal detention facilities. Alternatively, or additionally, ensure that state public health authorities dedicate a specific proportion of their vaccine allocations to people in immigration detention facilities located in their states. 
  3. Provide community legal and social service providers and advocates with access to detention facilities to communicate with detainees about the vaccine. Clear messaging on vaccination plans must be delivered to people in detention by trusted sources.  

The full letter is here.

You can help elevate these demands by calling the Department of Homeland Security comment line at 202-282-8495 and let them know you support insuring that all people held in ICE custody receive a vaccine – and that they be released as soon as possible!

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Haiti’s Third COVID Wave?

Reports are beginning to emerge of a new wave of COVID-19 infections in Haiti, as hospitals scramble to find scarce supplies. Haiti, like many other impoverished countries, has no clear vaccination program in place. The government suffers from a lack of legitimacy on many fronts, and it is unlikely it could mobilize people on a wide scale to get vaccinated. There is a high level of distrust about COVID in Haiti already, and Moise will certainly have a hard time countering that for the purposes of a vaccination campaign. 

That said, at this point there are no vaccines to give anyway. The multilateral source for donated vaccines (COVAX) is severely under served in general. There were 750,000+ AstraZeneca vaccines available to Haiti several weeks ago, but the government turned them down due to concerns about side effects (AstraZeneca has not been approved in the United States). Given the recent bump in cases some health officials in Haiti, such as Dr. Jean William Pape, director of the GHESKIO Center, argue that the government should rethink its position.**[Update below] 

Haiti is generally viewed as having escaped the worst of the pandemic – thus far. However, the true toll that COVID-19 has taken on the country is clearly unknown. Official numbers are well below the Dominican Republic, for example, but there is also no comparison regarding testing, which has been almost non-existent outside of Port au Prince. So, while things clearly could have been much worse in Haiti, given the fragility of its health infrastructure, there have probably been many times more deaths from COVID than are recognized. This is of course true everywhere (including the United States).

The third wave is evident in the trend lines for cases and deaths. Though not yet as severe are earlier peaks, hospitals in Port au Prince are seeing an increase in cases and shortages of supplies. Father Rick Frechette CP of St. Luke’s wrote over the weekend,

We were never closed since June 2020, but we never needed more than 10 beds.

Now the dramatic upswing with 65 beds, and we expect that 120 beds will again soon be necessary.

The Haitian Ministry of Health has announced variants from Amazon region of Brazil, and from the United Kingdom.

The United Kingdom itself is, according to the NY Times, taking measures against the variant in India that is causing enormous suffering and death.

I spent the morning at Cite Soleil, with Raphael, Fr David (from France), Fr Jean Baptiste (from Haiti) trying to evacuate the wounded from todays gang wars, waged for control of votes for upcoming elections, in this vast and populous area.These are not isolated events. A few days ago, such a gang war took place where the oxygen used for COVID patients is produced. This was a nightmare- we need 240 tanks per day at our current bed level.

In Gros Morne where we work, they are not seeing an increase yet – nor are they seeing an increase in precautions. One saving grace is that people spend a great deal of time either outside, or in spaces that have open air flow. 

 

A gobal dilemma

The Economist published research indicating that the true death count from COVID-19 globally is likely 10 million thus far, and that two-thirds of those deaths have occurred in poor countries where undercounts have also been the largest. Giving some sense of what is at stake, they write,

[I]n the short run vaccines will fuel the divide between rich and poor. Soon, the only people to die from covid-19 in rich countries will be exceptionally frail or exceptionally unlucky, as well as those who have spurned the chance to be vaccinated. In poorer countries, by contrast, most people will have no choice. They will remain unprotected for many months or years.

The world cannot rest while people perish for want of a jab costing as little as $4 for a two-dose course. It is hard to think of a better use of resources than vaccination. Economists’ central estimate for the direct value of a course is $2,900—if you include factors like long covid and the effect of impaired education, the total is much bigger. The benefit from an extra 1bn doses supplied by July would be worth hundreds of billions of dollars. Less circulating virus means less mutation, and so a lower chance of a new variant that reinfects the vaccinated.

Though the Economist is editorially suspicious that a much debated WTO waiver on patents and other intellectual property rights for COVID vaccines and technology will offer much of a solution – at least the short term. For one thing, no agreement on a waiver is likely to happen prior to December, if it happens at all. That would be 15 months after South Africa and India first proposed it in October of 2020. But that does not mean wealthy countries cannot help. They suggest, 

[i]f Mr Biden really wants to make a difference, he can donate vaccine right now through covax. Rich countries over-ordered because they did not know which vaccines would work. Britain has ordered more than nine doses for each adult, Canada more than 13. These will be urgently needed elsewhere. It is wrong to put teenagers, who have a minuscule risk of dying from covid-19, before the elderly and health-care workers in poor countries. The rich world should not stockpile boosters to cover the population many times over on the off-chance that they may be needed. In the next six months, this could yield billions of doses of vaccine.  

Thus far, the United States and Europe have offered money – Biden has pledged the U.S. to $4billion to support COVAX (though the first half of the funds will not be delivered until next year), but they have not donated much needed vaccines. The United States has agreed to loan Mexico 2.5 million vaccines from the U.S. stockpile of AstraZeneca, but in doing so it also leveraged concessions from Mexico for stricter immigration enforcement along its southern border with Guatemala. (Mexico closed its border with Guatemala shortly after the vaccine discussions in March). The fact that the U.S. has stockpiled 10 million doses of a vaccine it is not using is disturbing in and of itself. 

Meanwhile, back in Haiti

As the case of Haiti indicates, in addition to donations of vaccines, there is also a need to support the infrastructure needed for the delivery of vaccines (refrigeration at extreme low temperatures, for example, is required for storage and transport of some vaccine), as well as public education. 

For now, the ministry of health in Haiti is once again encouraging everyone to wear masks, wash hands regularly, do regular temperature checks, and engage in social distancing as much as possible.  It has also requested the media assist in getting the word out about the importance of these precautions. Hopefully, the government can make a decision soon on AstraZeneca. However, Haiti, a country of 11 million people, needs much more than 750,000 doses.

Long term it is in everyone’s interest for the people of Haiti and other countries to get vaccinated. We are not separately raising funds at this point ourselves, but if you wish to help with supplies, you can visit St. Luke’s here. They have been supportive of the community in Gros Morne in times past with medical supplies themselves.

**UPDATE: The Government Approved use of AstraZeneca just after publication (May 19):

Dr. Jarbas Barbosa, assistant director of World Health Organization’s Americas branch, told journalists Wednesday that the president of Haiti informed them that the country will accept the AstraZeneca vaccine. The government had previously expressed concerns about the shot’s safety following reports of clotting and had banned it from being used, despite being offered free doses.

 

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Franciscan Network on Migration Annual Report

Below is a message from Br. Jaime Campos, OFM introducing the annual report of the Franciscan Network on Migration. The Quixote Center is the fiscal sponsor for the Franciscan Network on Migration in the United States, and John Marchese serves on the coordinating committee. If you would like to support this work, you can make a tax-deductible contribution to the Franciscan Network here.


On behalf of our Steering Committee, I am pleased to present to you the Franciscan Network for Migration’s 2020 Annual Report. This first report fills us with joy because it is the result of the efforts of women and men who have set out to serve migrants and have woven a network nourished by the rich Franciscan spiritual values of fraternity and minority. As we incorporate into our life and mission the attitudes of welcoming, protecting, promoting and integrating migrants and refugees, we give life to the desire for universal brother and sisterhood, and the Kingdom of God becomes present in our midst.

Forming this network has required the dedication, patience, discipline and hope of everyone involved. I warmly thank those who, along with their daily work that they carry out in grassroots communities and organizations, share their lives with others in order to rediscover and come together around the migratory crisis that a large part of the world is experiencing and that has increased with the Sars2-COVID-19 pandemic.

From this reality, between struggles and hopes, the members of the network have joined to multiply the good towards our migrant brothers and sisters; working in a network that emerges from creativity, accompaniment and prayer. At times, the terrain exposes them to stretches of reflection and unity, as well as bifurcations of an overwhelming reality. But in each segment of the journey, they contribute, build and renew with their dedication the decision to walk together in this great project.

Our efforts have focused on the region of Central America, Mexico and the United States. In the following pages you will read about how the network has been woven, about the people who have joined, about the organizations that are part of this fabric, and about the instruments that we have used to form a network of work, encounter, and fraternity that is committed to the human rights of migrants.

Br. Jaime Campos, OFM

Member of the Steering Committee

Read the full report here

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Haiti News from Congress to Harvard Law School to the Border

Congress and Haiti this week

This week, 69 members of congress sent a letter to U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken asking for a review of U.S. policy toward Haiti. From the Miami Herald,

More than 60 U.S. House Democrats are calling for “a significant review of U.S. policy in Haiti” by the Biden administration and warning that “the U.S.’s insistence on elections at all costs in Haiti” later this year risks exacerbating the country’s cycle of political instability and violence.

“While elections will clearly be needed in the near future to restore democratic order, we remain deeply concerned that any electoral process held under the current administration will fail to be free, fair, or credible,” members of Congress said Monday in the letter addressed to Secretary of State Anthony Blinken. “Parliamentary, local, and presidential elections set for Fall 2021 could increase the risk of violence throughout the country significantly.”

The U.S. lawmakers said the administration of Haitian President Jovenel Moïse, who has been ruling without a parliament for over 15 months, not only “lacks the credibility and legitimacy” to administer elections that are free and fair but also a constitutional referendum scheduled for June 27.

The full text of the letter is available here.

The Biden administration’s ongoing support for elections in Haiti this year continues to be the focal point of critique. The security situation continues to deteriorate and with it, Moise’s limited credibility to oversee much of anything, much less elections. 

It should be noted, however, that the U.S. government does not support the scheduled referendum on the constitution, and even the Organization of American States has been critical of this (after waffling a bit). The question for many in Haiti regarding the referendum is thus whether to participate. A boycott makes it more likely that the reforms will pass, however, many doubt the integrity of the process to begin with – and so do not want to legitimate through their participation. It is still possible, of course, that the referendum will not occur. Even likely. It continues to be highly controversial within Haiti, even among some within Moise’s party.

There will be public panel discussion on the constitutional referendum on May 18 at 4:00 p.m (EST) including scholars and constitutional experts from Haiti. More information here.

Legislation was also introduced this week calling for a series of reports on the use of aid by the Haitian government and U.S. oversight of said aid. The full text of The Haiti Development, Accountability, and Institutional Transparency Initiative Act (H.R. 2471) is not yet available, but is almost identical to H.R. 5586, which was introduced during the last Congress.  It passed the House, though it was never taken up in the Senate.  

New Report from Harvard Law School and Haitian Observatory calls out Haiti’s government for Crimes Against Humanity (from press release announcing report)

Three deadly massacres targeting impoverished neighborhoods in Haiti were carried out with Haitian government support and amount to crimes against humanity, according to a report released today by Harvard Law School’s International Human Rights Clinic and the Observatoire Haïtien des Crimes contre l’humanité (OHCCH). The report points to evidence that the gang-led attacks were resourced and supported by state actors, ranging from high-ranking officials in the Moïse administration to the Haitian National Police. 

The report, “Killing with Impunity: State-Sanctioned Massacres in Haiti,” analyzes three attacks that took place between 2018-2020, which have together killed at least 240 civilians. The massacres targeted the Port-au-Prince neighborhoods of La Saline, Bel-Air, and Cité Soleil, which have played a leading role in organizing protests demanding government accountability for corruption and other human rights violations. 

“Moïse’s government has been pushing the story that the attacks are merely gang infighting, but the evidence demonstrates high-level government involvement in the planning, execution and cover-up of the attacks,” said Mario Joseph, Managing Attorney of Bureau des Avocats Internationaux, a member organization of OHCCH. 

The report relies on investigations by Haitian and international human rights experts that show that senior Moïse administration officials planned the attacks or otherwise assisted by providing the gangs with money, weapons, or vehicles. Off-duty police officers and resources were utilized to carry out the attacks. The Haitian National Police repeatedly failed to intervene to protect civilians despite the sites of the attacks being in close proximity to multiple police stations. In each attack, gangs arrived in the targeted neighborhood, shot at residents indiscriminately, raped women, and burnt and looted houses. The massacres repeatedly involved gangs affiliated with the G9 alliance led by Jimmy Chérizier, which reportedly enjoys government connections.

“We found that Moïse’s failure to stop or respond to attacks initiated by his subordinates may make the President himself liable for crimes against humanity,” said Beatrice Lindstrom, a Clinical Instructor at the Harvard Clinic who supervised the research and drafting of the report. “This should serve as a wake-up call to the international community to stand up for human rights, fully investigate allegations of serious abuses, and do its part to hold perpetrators accountable,” she added. 

Read the full report here. Send it to everyone you know who cares about Haiti.

New Title 42 report includes the testimony of hundreds of people expelled, including Haitians

Human Rights First, Haitian Bridge Alliance and Otro Lado published a powerful report that unpacks the toll that Title 42 expulsions are having on migrants. The report includes hundreds of testimonies from people expelled at the border, including testimony from Haitian migrants assembled by the Haitian Bridge Alliance.

The report is titled “Failure to Protect: Biden Administration Continues Illegal Trump Policy to Block and Expel Asylum Seekers to Danger” and can be read here. Excerpt from findings:

The Biden administration is blocking asylum-seeking families and individuals at ports of entry and expelling those who cross the border seeking protection to danger in Mexico. They include refugees from Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Cuba, El Salvador, Ethiopia, Ghana, Guatemala, Haiti, Honduras, Jamaica, Mexico, Nicaragua, Nigeria, Russia, Somalia, Venezuela, and Yemen. Restarting its tracking of reports of attacks on asylum seekers in Mexico, Human Rights First has identified at least 492 public and media reports of violent attacks since January 21, 2021 –including rape, kidnapping, and assault – against people stranded at the U.S.-Mexico border and/or expelled to Mexico. In a survey conducted by Al Otro Lado from mid-February through early April 2021 in Baja California, 81 percent of LGBTQ asylum seekers reported that they were subjected to attack or an attempted attack in Mexico in the past month, including sexual assault by Mexican law enforcement and human trafficking. Those delivered to severe violence in Mexico after requesting protection in the United States include: a woman reportedly kidnapped and raped in Reynosa after being expelled in February 2021; a 10-year-old Nicaraguan boy and his mother kidnapped immediately after U.S. border officers expelled them in March 2021; and a Cuban asylum seeker expelled to Tijuana where she fears the smugglers who previously kidnapped her and killed her friend.

We published our own report on Title 42 with the Haitian Bridge Alliance and UndocuBlack last month. Our report was principally focused on a review of the policy, with an expanded section featuring testimony from Haitians. The new report from Human Rights First (with Haitian Bridge Alliance and Otro Lado) goes much further as an investigation – based on hundreds of interviews done at the border during February and March, plus contributions from co-authors. Read it. Share it.

Biden must Re-designate Haiti for Temporary Protected Status

It is hard to imagine anyone in this administration lobbying to continue deportations and expulsions to Haiti under the current conditions, but somebody must be. Among the points raised in the Congressional letter referenced at the top of this column, is the need to halt removals and grant TPS to Haitians already here. Halting removals to Haiti is a consistent demand across the spectrum – from Congress, to every human rights organization I know working in Haiti, to the editorial boards of dominant media outlets like the New York Times and the Washington Post. The Harvard study makes clear the severity of the security situation, and government complicity in the violence.

I cannot imagine what Biden gains by continuing these removals. Is he that scared of the Fox News world? Given everything he is pressing for, this is small-scale stuff (compared, for example to $1.8 trillion for universal pre-school and free community college). It would, however, make a huge difference to hundreds of families. Just do it!

If you agree, you can call the White House comment line (202-456-1111) and let them know. You can also forward a copy of the letter from Congress to Blinken (if they have not already signed on) along with a copy of the Harvard study to your member of Congress. Ask them to speak out for TPS, and an end to removals to Haiti. Congress does not have the power to make these policy changes – but they can certainly press the Administration for action.

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La 72 Celebrates 10th Anniversary April 23

ACOMPAÑANOS A CELEBRAR NUESTROS 10 AÑOS DE ACOGER, PROTEGER, INTEGRAR, Y  PROMOVER LOS DERECHOS HUMANOS DE LAS PERSONAS EN MOVILIDAD. 

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JOIN US IN CELEBRATING 10 YEARS OF WELCOMING, PROTECTING,  INTEGRATING, AND PROMOTING HUMAN RIGHTS FOR MIGRANTS AND REFUGEES. 

Make a special 10th Anniversary donation through Paypal or our fiscal sponsor.
Hacer una donación especial como regalo de aniversario. Use Paypal o nuestro patrocinador fiscal.

Considera un VOLUNTARIADO en La 72.
Consider serving as a VOLUNTEER with La 72.

Background: The 72…

In August of 2010, members of the Los Zetas cartel murdered 72 migrants on a ranch near San Fernando in northeastern Mexico. Last year the Washington Office on Latin America posted a reflection on the 10-year anniversary:

The tragedy in San Fernando—which saw the migrants kidnapped and killed, reportedly for refusing to work for the criminal group—was no anomaly. In 2010, Mexico’s National Human Rights Commission (Comisión Nacional de los Derechos Humanos, CNDH)  estimated that approximately 20,000 migrants were kidnapped in Mexico. Ten years later, kidnapping remains one of the most common crimes that migrants report experiencing. Authorities have identified hundreds of migrant remains pulled from mass graves—such as the 48 graves with 196 people, discovered in 2011in San Fernando, and another with 49 torsos, found in 2012 in Cadereyta, Nuevo Leon—raising the question of how many of the tens of thousands of unidentified remains in Mexico may belong to missing migrants. A 2019 study found that about one in three migrants experience some form of violence when transiting through Mexico. 

In response to the violence that so many migrants face, and in honor of those killed in San Fernando specifically, the Franciscan order launched La 72, a shelter for migrants in Tenosique, Tabasco near the Mexico/Guatemala border in the months after the massacre. In the years since the shelter opened they have served tens of thousands of migrants from Central America and elsewhere, offering a meal, a room, and at times, assistance navigating Mexico’s migration system. 

Franciscan Network

In 2019 La 72 joined with other shelters in Mexico and Central America to create the Franciscan Network on Migration. The network provides opportunities for the coordination of the shelters’ work during the ongoing crisis generated by U.S. border policy, Mexico’s increased enforcement, and ongoing forced displacement from Central America. 

The need for the work is ongoing. In January of this year, in an attack reminiscent of the massacre at San Fernando, the bodies of 19 migrants were found in two vans. They had been shot, and then the bodies burned. Ultimately, the police were implicated in the attack along with cartels. Just this week came reports of a group of 120 migrants who have gone missing, last seen in Puebla. From a report on the situation: “The 120 migrants were being transported by coyotes, suffering mistreatment and abuse, but then were found by National Guard and local Tlaxclala authorities after one in the group was able to call for assistance through WhatsApp.” The concern is that they are possibly back with coyotes, as the group has not been heard from. 

The dangers migrants face is increasing as the Biden administration continues to pressure Mexico, and now Guatemala and Honduras, to clamp down on their borders and block passage of people trying to head north. The border closures and militarization of enforcement only serves to drive people into more dangerous situations. For many, the only chance they have for respite on this journey is through one of the many privately run shelters in the country.  

The Quixote Center is the fiscal sponsor for the Franciscan Network on Migration. You can donate to support their work here

 

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Good news, bad news: The Biden administration and immigration in week 4

“Sen. Joe Biden campaigns in Ankeny” by IowaPolitics.com is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0

We’ll start with the bad news. Very bad news. Last Friday we reported that the administration had agreed to a suspension of removal flights to Haiti. They were suspended for one day (Friday), On Monday the flights began again, and have continued every day this week.

Neither, Biden’s team at Homeland Security or at the Domestic Policy Council have provided any kind of convincing public answer about why they are continuing the flights to Haiti – just as they made no public commitment to the suspension to begin with. But where they have talked around it, the response is disingenuous at best.

The first suggestion is that they have no choice. Biden, they will say, attempted to launch a 100 day moratorium on deportation. It was announced on January 20th, implemented on January 22nd, and then blocked by a federal judge “in Texas” on January 26. The judge “paused our pause,” one Biden official explained on a policy call. There are two problems with this answer. Firstly, most of the people being removed to Haiti are in fact being expelled under Title 42; the moratorium was never intended to cover Title 42 expulsions. Which means, 90% of the people being removed to Haiti right now, all other things being equal, would be removed anyway under the terms of the moratorium. We note that during the five days the moratorium was enacted, there were still removal flights everyday except Sunday – Title 42 removals and others not covered by the limited moratorium.

Secondly, the administration has indicated that it is working on “new protocols” at the border that will take a few weeks to prepare. Until then, anyone crossing the border will be expelled. The “we are working on it, and just need time” answer seems reasonable, but provides little actual substance. The Quixote Center was one of 100 organizations to sign a letter to Biden asking for the revocation of Title 42, for example. The response from the White House was not particularly promising:

On behalf of the team at the White House, thank you to you and your signers for this letter. From day one, the President has prioritized taking urgent action to begin to create a more humane and just immigration process, including an executive order announced yesterday which included directing the Secretary of Homeland Security to review the Migrant Protection Protocols.

These measures are only the beginning and demonstrate the President’s commitment to addressing this issue in full. It is important to underscore that the situation at the border will not transform overnight, due in large part to the damage done over the last four years.

Of course, if the various policy reviews do lead to significant change, this will be welcome. But Biden has not been very clear on his vision thus far, nor a timeline. This is contributing to a great deal of confusion at the border. To be clear, if there is a crisis it is largely of Trump’s making. But a good lesson for Biden to take from Trump’s time in office is that a lack of clarity makes things worse.

One final word on unclear messaging about these removals. From Amy Goodman to the New York Times, another line of argument is that ICE has gone rogue, and is continuing to deport families and kids in spite of new guidance from the Department of Homeland Security to change enforcement priorities. This version of events misreads the January 20th memorandum from DHS acting director Pekoske – the same memo that included the deportation memorandum. The shift in priorities, like the moratorium, has nothing to do with Title 42 removals. We keep emphasizing this, and will continue to beat this drum until the policy changes. Title 42 denies people all due process. They are simply expelled. Period.

In the end, these expulsions to Haiti are not the fault of a judge in Texas or a rogue immigration agency. Biden has the power to stop them by either revoking Title 42 completely for everybody, or using the discretion allowed under the CDC order for humanitarian relief to stop the flights to Haiti. He thus far is refusing to use that power. 

So now, some good news! 

Yesterday, Buzzfeed reporter Hamed Aleaziz released details on the Biden administration’s plan to wind down the Migration Protection Protocols. The details of the “plan” from Buzzfeed:

The Biden administration’s plan, which will start slowly at three ports of entry, targets those who were pushed into the Remain in Mexico program and still have active cases in US immigration courts, according to a draft of the plan obtained by BuzzFeed News. Those who qualify after registering online should not come to the border, but instead wait for instructions to start the entry process, a source with knowledge of the plan said.

As they prepare to enter the US, the immigrants will be kept in so-called staging areas in Mexico, where they will receive a medical screening and a COVID-19 test. Those who test positive for the disease will be forced to continue waiting in Mexico until they test negative.

US Customs and Border Protection officials will also assess the capacity to intake those allowed into the US on a daily basis. Officials believe they can process up to 300 people a day within the first few weeks at two of the ports of entry for the initial phase.

“This is an effort that has been months in the planning. I think it absolutely shows that the administration was serious about this commitment,” the source said.

The initial effort will prioritize people based on when their cases were open, but there will be some opportunities for those who are particularly vulnerable to be fast-tracked, the source added. The US government estimates that 25,000 people in the Remain in Mexico program are still awaiting their court hearings.

Department of Homeland Security officials will not allow in people whose US asylum cases were terminated or who already have deportation orders. People who do not follow the reentry plan will also be turned back, in some cases using a public health law that allows for US border officials to quickly turn back immigrants at the border. This week, the White House also warned that most immigrants will still be turned away at the border. (Emphasis added).

The Migration Protection Protocols had resulted in 60,000+ people being forced to wait in Mexico for an asylum hearing. Since April, due to COVID-19, hearings have been suspended. Even when they were happening, they were a bit of a disaster. Setting in motion a process to help people get through this process quickly is thus huge. The devil is, of course, in the details as they say. And while 25,000 may still be enrolled and waiting in Mexico under MPP, January was the fourth month in a row that more than 60,000 people were expelled under Title 42 – and it seems clear that is not ending anytime soon.

Another bit of good news is that the State Department formally suspended Asylum Cooperation Agreements with Honduras, Guatemala, and El Salvador. The Trump administration had negotiated these agreements in order to send asylum seekers back to one of these countries. The agreement with Guatemala was the only one operative when COVID-19 restrictions went into place. Hundreds of asylum seekers from El Salvador and Honduras were sent back to Guatemala to seek asylum in the first part of 2020 under that agreement.

 

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