Daniel Boote, U.S. special envoy to Haiti resigns over inhumane decision to deport Haitian migrants

Migrants cross the Rio Grande River on 22 September.

The US envoy to Haiti has resigned after just two months in the role, in protest at what he called the Biden administration’s “inhumane” mass deportation of Haitian migrants and asylum-seekers to what he said was a highly dangerous “collapsed state”.

Daniel Foote’s angry resignation letter is a serious blow for an administration which came to office promising a more humane approach to immigration in the wake of Donald Trump’s policy of child separation. But it has been overwhelmed by a surge of Haitian migrants and refugees fleeing the implosion of the country’s society after the assassination in July of its president, Jovenel Moïse, triggered chaos that was then compounded by a powerful earthquake in August.

Foote, who has previously served as deputy chief of mission in Haiti and ambassador in Zambia, was appointed special envoy after Moïse’s killing, which remains unsolved.

A member with the Border Humanitarian Coalition, right, guides migrants, mostly from Haiti, as they are released from United States Border Patrol custody upon crossing the Texas-Mexico border in search of asylum, Wednesday, Sept. 22, 2021, in Del Rio, Texas. (AP Photo/Julio Cortez)

After some 14,000 migrants gathered in an impromptu camp under a bridge in Del Rio, Texas, the Immigration and Customs Enforcement (Ice) bureau started flying hundreds out on multiple flights every day, without the opportunity for asylum appeals or hearings.

“I will not be associated with the United States’ inhumane, counterproductive decision to deport thousands of Haitian refugees and illegal immigrants to Haiti, a country where American officials are confined to secure compounds because of the danger posed by armed gangs to daily life,” Foote said in his letter to the secretary of state, Antony Blinken, that was leaked on Thursday.

“Our policy approach to Haiti remains deeply flawed, and my policy recommendations have been ignored and dismissed, when not edited to project a narrative different from my own.”

“The people of Haiti, mired in poverty, hostage to the terror, kidnappings, robberies and massacres of armed gangs and suffering under a corrupt government with gang alliances, simply cannot support the forced infusion of thousands of returned migrants lacking food, shelter and money without additional avoidable human tragedy,” Foote said, arguing that the deportation policy was self-defeating as it would only fuel more migration.

“The collapsed state is unable to provide security or basic services, and more refugees will fuel further desperation, and crime. Surging migration to our borders will only grow as we will add to Haiti’s unacceptable misery.”

The deportations are being carried out under a previously obscure public health law, Title 42, which was used for summary expulsions by the Trump administration and has been continued under Joe Biden. The head of the UN refugee agency, Filippo Grandi, has said the use of Title 42, without any due process or screening for potential peril faced by deportees might violate international law.

The publication of Foote’s letter comes just days after shocking pictures were published showing US border patrol agents on horseback using their reins on desperate Haitian refugees by the banks of the Rio Grande. The administration has been assailed from both human rights groups for the deportations and the treatment of migrants, and from the right for the decision to release thousands of the Haitians into the US in order to alleviate the conditions in Del Rio.

The Department of Homeland Security, which oversees Ice, said on Wednesday it had deported 1,401 migrants from the Del Rio camp to Haiti and taken a further 3,206 into custody

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