DHS Accepting Public Comment On Family Separation

The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) is accepting public comments on how to prevent future administrations from separating families at the border until January 25th. 

The Trump administration separated an estimated 5,500 children from their families during 2018 as the result of enforcing a “zero tolerance” policy at the border. While many have been reunited, the long-lasting psychological harm to young children has already been done. By the end of 2021, Biden’s Task Force on the Reunification had reunited 100 families, with an additional 345 children identified for reunification. However, at least a thousand children remain separated from their families. 

In November 2021, President Biden dismissed a report to provide migrants impacted by family separation up to $1 million as “garbage.” He later walked back that statement and said that families of separated children should receive reparations. But in December, after ten months of negotiations, his administration withdrew from settlement talks with families affected by family separations. Whether these families will receive justice remains to be seen. 

Click HERE for an auto-generated comment that you can edit. Remember: every comment must be unique in order to be effective. 

Below is the comment that we’ve submitted to DHS as an example:

To prevent future human rights abuses, the Biden administration must adopt policy and language that enshrine respect for the dignity and human rights of all migrants. To signal its commitment, the current administration must demonstrate such harm will never again be tolerated. Reparations are one such mechanism of transitional justice. Though no amount of money can undo the lifelong emotional and psychological harm caused by being forcibly separated from one’s family, reparations are vital to acknowledging the wrongdoing and addressing the harms suffered. The Biden administration must provide the families with pending cases with an equitable settlement. 

 

 

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Weekly update on expulsion of refugees to Haiti, Take Action

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

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

This week*

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

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

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

Take Action to Halt the Flights

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

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

 

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Biden marks anniversary of earthquake by expelling more Haitian refugees

Flight Eastern 3503, taking Haitian refugees from El Paso to Port au Prince, Jan. 12, 2022

Twelve years ago today, a massive earthquake brought down buildings throughout the Port au Prince area, killing hundreds of thousands of people and displacing many more. As a result, January 12 is a national day of mourning in Haiti.

For the United States it is just another day to expel Haitian refugees – 443 Haitians were expelled today on three flights. 

In September of this year, the Biden administration launched a massive removal campaign against Haitians. It is still going on. Many of those expelled in this time began their journey to seek a liveable life outside of Haiti in the months after that earthquake. 

Between September 19, 2021 and January 12, 2022, the Biden administration has expelled 14,800 Haitian refugees on 137 flights. Most have been removed under Title 42

For context, it is important to be very clear about the following: People who are seeking asylum are not “illegal” immigrants, and under US law, we are obligated to screen their asylum claims, no matter how they enter the country

That said, the right to seek asylum has been illegally limited under Trump-era “Title 42” enforcement measures enacted by an ill-conceived pronouncement from the Centers for Disease Control and Protection in March 2020. Under “Title 42” the CDC claims that migrants can be removed as quickly as possible, with no access to asylum processing outside of a narrow provision under the Convention Against Torture. In reality, CAT screening is widely denied as well. 

For the most part, Haitians cannot simply be expelled at the border under Title 42. They must be flown out. This means detention in congregant settings, ground transportation and flights – all of which make a complete mockery of the “public health” justification for upending asylum processing.

Title 42 is thus an abrogation of international obligations concerning the treatment of refugees, and is, prima facie, a violation of US law. And yet, Biden persists, and regarding Haitians, does so in a way that greatly increases the risks to their health.

Based on numerous reports we know people are put on planes by Immigration and Customs Enforcement without being told they are being sent to Haiti. Adults are often shackled during flights.

On the ground in the United States, immigration authorities treat Haitians horrendously. Haitians are detained, denied attorneys, and mostly denied the chance to make a formal request for asylum. Though the Biden administration has made some exceptions for families, it is not a uniform policy. Nearly 20% of those removed since September are children. 

The International Organization for Migration is supposed to provide $120 to Haitians on arrival for relocation assistance – but this assistance is not consistently granted. Returnees are then processed and shown the door at the airport. People who left Haiti a month, a year, or even a decade ago, find themselves pushed onto the streets of Port au Prince at a time when insecurity is about as bad as anybody can remember. 

We think this is wrong. If you agree, please join us in sending a message to members of Congress, asking them to speak out against removals to Haiti, and to Biden, demanding an end to all Title 42 removals.  

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Biden must halt removals to Haiti. NOW!

On Tuesday, December 14 the Biden Administration sent two full removal flights to Haiti. These were the 94th and 95th such flights since Biden launched mass deportations to Haiti in mid-September. The deportations are ostensibly a response to an increase in the number of Haitians attempting to cross into the United States in September. 

The September “crisis” was splashed across major media outlets with photos of 15,000 Haitians and others under a bridge between the Rio Grande and the Del Rio port of entry in Texas. At the time, Biden’s Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security, Alejandro Mayorkas, claimed that 8,000 Haitians were immediately returned to Mexico. Since then, thousands more have been expelled: Beginning September 19 of this year, the Biden Administration removed over 10,000 Haitians from the United States in expulsion and deportation flights to Haiti. (IOM data as of Dec 12 here -there have been three flights since.)

Between January and March of 2021, the Biden administration expelled over 2,000 Haitians. 

Human rights organizations, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, and several Members of Congress have denounced the removals, without demonstrable impact on the White House. Indeed, A DHS spokesperson said that, according to the US embassy in Port au Prince, the situation in Haiti has improved, and thus people could be safely returned. 

This is untrue.

The security situation in Haiti has deteriorated significantly since July – with the assassination of Haiti’s president that month, and an explosion of gang activity since, especially kidnappings. The Institute for Justice and Democracy in Haiti’s most recent human rights report begins, “the government has continued to dismantle the country’s accountability systems, which has fueled unprecedented violence by gangs,2 many with government connections, as well as a continued deterioration of the social and economic conditions in the country.”

Added to this, a massive earthquake in the southern peninsula in August left close to 500,000 people without secure shelter. The violence has hampered recovery efforts. Food insecurity is on the rise, as are prices for nearly everything due to fuel shortages. Yet, Biden has seen fit to expel 10,000 refugees back to Haiti – even as the Civil Rights division of the Department of Homeland Security warned that doing so constitutes a violation of the US commitment of non-refoulement under international law. 

To add insult to injury, The Biden Administration has utterly failed to deliver on its promise to assist the Government of Haiti and the International Organization on Migration’s efforts to receive people. The US delayed promised aid, leading the IOM to provide far less relocation assistance than earlier agreed upon. Most people received little more than the price of a bus ticket from the airport in Port au Prince or Cap Haitian to their home. Meanwhile, a massive Immigration and Customs Enforcement corporate partner, the GEO Group, cashed in with a $15.76 million contract to organize removal flights to Haiti in September and October.

Although Biden maintained a progressive immigration stance during the election, he has failed to assemble a progressive coalition on immigration during his presidency. Historically, the treatment of Haitians has been an indicator of the direction of future US immigration policy. This is true now as well.

The Biden Administration has also expanded removals to southern Mexico, alongside new direct expulsion flights to Honduras and Guatemala over the last two months. To be clear, these new flights are not regular deportation flights, but summary expulsions under Title 42. The United States has been expelling people from Central America and Mexico back into Mexico with minimal processing, and no opportunity to request asylum since March of 2020. 

However, because many people try to re-enter the United States once expelled, the Biden Administration expels people by plane to get them as far from the border as possible. As with Haitian removals, expulsion flights to southern Mexico and Central America make a complete mockery of the public health dimension of Title 42 – under which the Centers for Disease Control and Protection directed the Department of Homeland Security to expel people immediately to avoid detention and processing in congregant settings. You can’t fly people out of the United States without first holding them in a staging area, e.g. “congregant setting” – exactly what Title 42 was supposed to avoid. 

We invite you to join us in condemning ongoing removals to Haiti. You can send a message to your member of Congress asking them to raise their voice in opposition to Biden’s Haiti expulsion policy by using our Legislative platform here.

We also invite you to join us in demanding an end to Title 42 by signing (and sharing) this petition to the Biden administration.

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The United States’ dismal human rights record: Title 42 and Haiti

Photo Courtesy of John Lazarre & Guerline Jozef

December 10, 2021 marks the 73rd anniversary of the formal approval of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights by the United Nations General Assembly. The United States voted to approve the declaration in 1948 along with 47 of the then 58 members of the United Nations (there were eight abstentions, and two not-voting). The Universal Declaration was a bold claim that everyone on the planet was entitled to a core set of rights, regardless of where they lived. It was and remains a powerful vision. Yet it is one that is wholly unrealized in the lives of the vast majority of people on the planet.

One has to look no further than the United States treatment of Haitians and others at the US border with Mexico to get a glimpse of how far we are from realizing the vision of universal human rights.

Title 42

Since January, the Biden administration has summarily expelled close to one million people. That is, one million people denied the right to make a claim of asylum under the provisions of a “public health” order issued by the Trump administration. The order is referred to as “Title 42” in reference to the section of the federal code under which the Center for Disease Control and Protection claimed authority to suspend asylum in March of 2020. It has been widely criticized by immigrant and human rights organizations, as well as public health professionals, including some in the CDC itself. Nevertheless Biden has maintained, and indeed expanded, the use of Title 42. 

Under Title 42 people are immediately removed to the last country of transit. In theory, this applies to both Mexico or Canada, but there have been comparatively few Title 42 expulsions back into Canada (in FY 2021 there were 7,500 Title 42 expulsions on the northern border, compared to 1.1 million on the southern border). The public health rationale for this abrogation of international responsibilities rests on two things: The threat that COVID-19 holds for Border Patrol personnel if forced to monitor and process people in congregant settings, e.g. held in Border Patrol stations. And the related claim of a lack of capacity to safely quarantine and test people in custody (though testing is readily available now).  (See page 11-16 in linked report)

As a result, migrants encountered by Border Patrol are summarily expelled – most within 2 hours of being encountered. The catch is that Mexico and Canada have to agree to take people back. Mexico agreed to accept Mexican nationals, and people from El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras when Title 42 was first announced. These four countries make up over 90% of the people encountered at the United States/Mexico border – but it leaves others, like folk from Haiti, in a legal limbo. Though some have been removed to Mexico anyway, most are detained in congregate settings within the United States, in a complete contradiction of the stated rationale for the policy, until they can be expelled by plane. 

The public health argument has never really been the point, of course, and so the fact that the Department of Homeland Security fails to implement its own operating procedures when it comes to enforcing Title 42 is hardly surprising. Indeed, the Biden administration has also argued that Title 42 provides a needed deterrent to migration. The logic is that if people know they will be summarily expelled from the United States – they won’t attempt to come in. Deterring people from seeking refuge in one’s country by meting out harsh treatment to those who try is, of course, a violation of human rights. 

The “shipwreck of civilization” at Del Rio and beyond

This week Pope Francis visited migrant camps in Greece. Against the backdrop of the official misery created by European xenophobia, he lambasted the region’s leaders for their poor treatment of migrants, and the political impulse used by nationalists throughout the continent to sow hatred and fear against refugees for political gain. He referred to this situation as the “shipwreck of civilization” and could have just as easily been talking about the United States. Though there are many parallels one could point to between Europe and the United States in their shared determination to offload responsibilities for migrants and deny refugees entrance, the Biden administration’s deployment of Title 42 against Haitians stands out as particularly relevant.

It was just in September that the Biden administration decided to use Haitians as a prime example of its deterrent strategy, basically tossing the Universal Declaration of Human Rights in a trash can in the process. When an unexpected (officially at least) increase in the number of Haitians seeking entrance into the United States occurred at the Del Rio border crossing in Texas in mid-September, the Biden administration launched a mass removal process that has led to the expulsion of over 9,000 Haitians back to Haiti (official IOM data as of November 26, 2021. There have been 6 flights since), and reportedly (at the time) another 8,000 back into Mexico – despite Mexico’s heretofore reluctance to accept Haitians under Title 42. 

At the time, the administration claimed that there were a total of 30,000 migrants encountered in the Del Rio sector and that an “estimated” 12,000 were able to avail themselves of asylum protection. This is misleading. According to Border Patrol figures, just under 18,000 Haitians were encountered in September. Given the larger numbers discussed, I am assuming the 8,000 Haitians Mayorkas said were basically pushed back into Mexico in September are not counted in CBP’s official tally of “encounters” for that month. Either that, or Maryokas was simply guessing. 

Over half of the 18,000 people officially encountered have been removed since mid-September – including thousands supposedly placed in Title 8, or regular immigration processing. Some Haitian families were able to avail themselves of asylum processing. However, it is clear that this was a delay tactic, as many have been expelled anyway. Indeed, nearly 20% of those removed to Haiti via plane have been children indicating a high number of family expulsions.

It is not safe to return people to Haiti. As the situation in Haiti continued to deteriorate over the summer, in August, the Department of Homeland Security’s Office for Civil Rights and Civil Liberties warned the administration that returning Haitians to Haiti risked, “violating US civil and human rights obligations,” according to an internal document obtained by BuzzFeed News

When the increase in Haitians arriving in Del Rio occurred a month later, however, all of these concerns were set aside.

Really, more of a plane wreck…

From mid-September to Monday, December 6, 2021, the Biden administration expelled nearly 10,000 Haitians back to Haiti on 90 removal flights (September 19 to December 7). In other words, in less than three months the administration has flown more flights to Haiti than any other country except Mexico and Guatemala. Meanwhile, Haitians made up less than 3% of all encounters with Border Patrol in FY 2021. 

Hameed Aleaziz wrote in Buzzfeed News this week, “A DHS spokesperson said that following the earthquake in August, deportations of Haitians were suspended, but that after the embassy in Haiti determined that conditions had improved, they were restarted.”

It is hard to imagine anyone reviewing the situation in Haiti between July and August this year, and deciding conditions had improved. While I reject the way major media outlets continue to employ cartoonish language to describe Haiti in sensationalized terms (failed state, hell on earth, and so on), the security situation has clearly continued to deteriorate. Kidnappings have increased dramatically. The violence in Port au Prince neighborhoods like Martissant, sections of Delmas, and Croix de Bouquet, have led to the displacement of thousands of Haitians. As a result, outside of the capital the situation has worsened, leaving communities isolated and often unable to get needed supplies from Port-au-Prince.

The provision of resources “for the humane receipt” of individuals, amounted to a pledge of funds that was to provide $100 per person for relocation. However, the funds from the United States were late in arriving, and the International Organization on Migration, which was actually doing the work, was left scrambling for resources. People typically received far less than the pledged amount, often no more than the cost of a bus ticket home. For many of the people expelled in this way, it was the first time they had been in Haiti in years. Almost all of those expelled from Del Rio had arrived at the U.S. border via South America, where many Haitians resettled in the years since the massive earthquake in 2010.

Under such circumstances, it is not a surprise that many of those returned have reportedly already left again. The increase in the number of people leaving Haiti by boat in recent weeks seems an indication of this desperation.

Human rights debacle

The obscenity of the removal policy to Haiti – and its illegality – has been pointed out by many. Recently it directly led to the resignation of the US Special Envoy to Haiti, Daniel Foote, who wrote in his resignation letter:

I will not be associated with the United States inhumane, counterproductive decision to deport thousands of Haitian refugees and illegal [sic] immigrants to Haiti, a country where American officials are confined to secure compounds because of the danger posed by armed gangs in control of daily life. 

Removals to Haiti were also a contributing factor to the resignation of State Department legal counsel Harold Koh – who introduced his detailed resignation letter:

I write first, because I believe this Administration’s current implementation of the Title 42 authority continues to violate our legal obligation not to expel or return (“refouler”) individuals who fear persecution, death, or torture, especially migrants fleeing from Haiti.

Finally, the UN High Commissioner for Refugees Filippo Grandi issued a statement calling on the US to end Title 42 enforcement, saying, 

The summary, mass expulsions of individuals currently underway under the Title 42 authority, without screening for protection needs, is inconsistent with international norms and may constitute refoulement. 

The realization of universal human rights remains a principle worth fighting for. But in the United States over the last year, we can see why that realization still feels distant. Biden has doubled down on the Trump campaign against asylum – indeed for Haitians in particular, Biden has proven to be much worse. So, as the speeches are made this week, marking the anniversary, remember that we have a long way to go. Even the most basic right to seek refuge – a right of crucial importance to the framers of the Declaration writing in the wake of World War II – is widely being denied across the globe.

And the United States under president Biden still remains among the worst violators.

Join us in calling on the Biden administration to end MPP and Title 42, and restore asylum with respect to the human rights and dignity of all migrants by signing our petition HERE

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Removal flights continue, Title 42 is the reason

This week the number of deportation flights to Haiti fell to a total of 4 flights. That brings the total number of flights to 74, and the total number of people expelled to Haiti by the Biden administration to 7,800 since September 19, 2021. According to the International Organization on Migration, another 2,200 + Haitians have been deported back to Haiti from other countries during this same time period – over half of them from Cuba. The other countries that have expelled Haitians are the Bahamas, Turks and Caicos, and Mexico. This brings the total number of people sent back to Haiti to just over 10,000 in less than one month.  The graphic above includes removals from the United States as of Monday, October 9 (there have been three flights since).

It is just over a year since we wrote about expulsions flights to Haiti in October of 2020. At that point we were talking about 12 flights over the course of the month, totalling about 1,100 people. Then, again in February and March of this year, there was another round of expulsion flights, leading to 2,000 people expelled over a 5 week period. This latest episode is thus the latest in a cycle of crossings, detention and removal that has focused on Haiti. For each of previous peaks in this cycle, outrage was mobilized, members of Congress spoke out, and editorial boards condemned. The practice of mass removal, however, continues. And if the response to the crossings in Del Rio is any indication, it is getting worse. And it is not just Haiti.

Prior to the debacle at Del Rio, we were writing about expulsion flights filled with people from Central America who were being removed to southern Mexico. Those flights have continued throughout the last four weeks as well. A flight every weekday to Villahermosa and Tapachula from McAllen air force base. During August there were 36 flights, and 42 in September. Witness at the Border tracks these flights with monthly reports. The latest numbers are here.

 In addition, the Biden administration has added direct Title 42 expulsion flights to Guatemala over the last month – on top of the regular deportation flights that have been ongoing throughout the pandemic. The direct Title 42 expulsions flights to Guatemala began on September 2. The total number of flights to Guatemala jumped from 10 in August to 34 in September. 

The explosion of flights over the past month are almost all removals under Title 42. As a reminder, Title 42 references an order issued by the CDC that claims authority under Title 42 of the US Code to deny access to regular asylum processing and expel people immediately. The use of removal flights to expel people under Title 42 began with Haitians early on during the pandemic. At the time we argued, and others have raised, that such flights undermine whatever public health justification there is for Title 42. The CDC order (and its updates since) is premised on the supposed need to avoid holding migrants in a congregant setting during the time fo COVID-19, as this poses a risk to Border Patrol agents, and presumably the migrants as well (though their health is not a high priority). For the sake of “public health,” people are denied the right to asylum and expelled immediately. 

However, flights are a whole different thing. To fly people out means detaining them for some amount of time – in  a congregate setting, while they await flights. This will be days or weeks. The Biden administration is thus maintaining the absurdist position that it is obligated to deny people access to asylum because of the dangers to Border Patrol and others of holding them in congregate settings during a pandemic, all while holding them in congregate settings! 

This absurd position had been applied to Haitians ever since the order was first implemented in march of 2020 as Mexico refused to take them back. Now it is being applied to Central Americans and Mexicans as well, who are being detained under Title 42 while awaiting flights designed to get them as far away from the border as possible. It makes absolutely no sense at all. The UNited States government is simply denying people access to asylum because they fear the political fallout from Trumpistas if they return to a semblance of humanity at the border.

There will be more people coming – from Haiti, from Cuba, from Venezuela, and from throughout Central America. These people will not come in steady numbers, but in cycles of larger groups as travel restrictions and the long arm of US border enforcement (which reaches all the way to Panama) means people are held up for periods throughout the Mesoamerican region. They are detained, released, detained and released. It is an absurd system that will continue to generate periodic crises. 

It is time to end this monstrosity. It is a system that has failed, even on its own terms, through a reliance on deterrent strategies that demonstrably do not work – as they do not address the underlying reasons people are on the move to begin with. People will keep coming. We desperately need a new system that is first prefaced on respecting the right of human mobility, and that actually seeks to address public health concerns through screening. 

Title 42 is not that policy. It is a dehumanizing mess, and illegal under international law. Time to end it.

Here is what you can do now to demand an end to Title 42:

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Week of Action Against Deportation

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Where did these flights go?

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

Where did the flights come from?

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

Immigration policy is also a big business….

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

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

The issue remains Title 42

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

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

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

On Haiti specifically, Koh has this to say:

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

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

Daniel Foote briefs the House Foreign Affairs Committee

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

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

 

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United States loses its mind over Haitian migration yet again

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

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

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

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

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

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

And now….more Haitians are coming! 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

For the time being!

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

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