A senior US diplomat who oversees Haitian politics has resigned, two US officials said, submitting a letter to the State Department denouncing the Biden administration’s “inhuman and counterproductive decision” to return Haitian migrants to a country that was rocked this summer by a deadly earthquake and political unrest.
Diplomat Daniel Foote was appointed special envoy to Haiti in July, just weeks after President Jovenel Moïse was killed in his room during a night raid on his residence. Mr Foote, a former ambassador to Zambia and acting deputy secretary for international narcotics and law enforcement affairs, did not respond to messages for comment Thursday morning.
In his scathing resignation letter, dated Wednesday, Foote criticized the Biden administration for deporting some of the thousands of Haitian migrants who had made their way to the Texas border from Mexico and Central America in recent days. .
“I will not be associated with the inhuman and counterproductive decision of the United States to deport thousands of Haitian refugees and illegal immigrants to Haiti, a country where American officials are confined in secure complexes due to the danger represented by the armed gangs controlling daily life. “, wrote Mr. Foote in the letter, which was first reported by PBS NewsHour. Its authenticity has been confirmed by a senior State Department official and congressional official.
Mr. Foote also blasted a “cycle of international political interventions in Haiti” which “has consistently produced catastrophic results,” and warned that the number of migrants to US borders “will only increase as we add to Haiti’s unacceptable misery.”
In May, the Biden administration extended temporary protection status to 150,000 Haitians already living in the United States. The order was extended again for Haitians living in the United States before July 29. But tens of thousands of other Haitians have attempted to cross to the United States since then, despite not qualifying for the program.
Mr. Foote has reportedly been pushing for increased oversight and accountability in his envoy work to Haiti, efforts which were rejected by senior State Department officials. Department spokesman Ned Price described on Thursday the proposals put forward, including by Mr. Foote, which “were deemed detrimental to our commitment to promoting democracy in Haiti and were rejected in the process. Politics”.
“No idea is ignored, but not all ideas are good ideas,” Mr. Price said. He was responding to Mr. Foote’s assertion in his resignation letter that his recommendations had been “ignored and rejected”.
“Our political approach to Haiti remains deeply flawed,” Mr. Foote wrote.
The increase in Haitian migration began in the months after President Biden took office, when he quickly began to overturn the more stringent immigration policies of former President Donald J. Trump, which was interpreted by many as a sign that the United States would be more welcoming towards migrants.
The U.S. Border Patrol said more than 9,000 migrants, mostly from Haiti, were being held in a temporary staging area under the Del Rio International Bridge in Texas as officers were working as quickly as possible to process them.
About 1,400 Haitians have been deported since Sunday, with more flights scheduled each day, according to US customs and border protection. As of Thursday, there were around 4,050 migrants, mostly Haitians, still at the Del Rio Bridge.
14,000 migrants are expected to be returned to Haiti in the coming weeks. Haitian officials pleaded with the United States to grant a “humanitarian moratorium” amid widespread instability.
But the Biden administration, facing the highest level of border crossings in decades, has implemented policies aimed at slowing the entry of migrants. On Monday, Alejandro N. Mayorkas, the secretary of the Department of Homeland Security, said newly arrived Haitians would not be covered by temporary residence orders which were extended earlier this year.
“We are very concerned that Haitians who use this irregular migration route are receiving false information that the border is open or that temporary protection status is available,” Mayorkas said at a conference. press release Monday in Del Rio, Texas. “I want to make sure people know this is not the way to come to the United States.”
Officials at the Haitian Embassy in Washington did not respond to messages for comment Thursday morning.
In a statement, the State Department thanked Mr. Foote for his services and said that “the United States remains committed to supporting safe, orderly and humane migration throughout our region.”
The statement said the United States and the United Nations immigration agency were trying to ensure that deported Haitians were met at Port-au-Prince airport and provided with a meal, a hygiene kit and $ 100.
“In the long term, the U.S. government is committed to working with the Haitian government and stakeholders across Haiti to strengthen democratic governance and the rule of law, increase inclusive economic growth, and improve the security and protection of people. human rights in Haiti, ”said the ministry’s statement.
Eileen Sullivan contributed reports.