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People walk over a pile of rubble from a collapsed building in Les Cayes, Haiti on August 16, 2021, three days after a 7.2 magnitude earthquake. (Photo: Richard Pierrin via Getty Images)

'Cruel and Callous': Biden Slammed for Resuming Deportations to Battered Haiti

"Hours after the 7.2 magnitude earthquake, President Joe Biden released a statement saying that the United States was a 'friend' of Haiti. A 'friend' does not continuously inflict pain on another friend," said Guerline Jozef of the Haitian Bridge Alliance.

Kenny Stancil

Infuriated human rights advocates on Thursday denounced the Biden administration for resuming deportation flights to Haiti—even as residents of the impoverished Caribbean nation continue to struggle in the aftermath of last month's disastrous earthquake and tropical storm, which came amid the Covid-19 pandemic and in the wake of an ongoing political-economic crisis.

"That ICE would continue to carry out the mass deportations of our Haitian neighbors—with Haiti in the midst of its worst political, public health, and economic crises yet—is cruel and callous."
—Rep. Ayanna Pressley

"We are in utter disbelief that the Biden administration would deport Haitians now," Guerline Jozef, co-founder and executive director of the Haitian Bridge Alliance, told The Hill. "Hours after the 7.2 magnitude earthquake, President Joe Biden released a statement saying that the United States was a 'friend' of Haiti. A 'friend' does not continuously inflict pain on another friend."

"And yet, today, just one month after this devastating earthquake and storm that resulted in the deaths of over 2,200 Haitians, injured 12,000 people, damaged or destroyed 120,000 homes, and displaced hundreds of thousands of people, the administration sent a plane full of families to Haiti under Title 42, including children under the age of three, without offering them legal protection and the opportunity to file for asylum," added Jozef.

Despite the pleas of immigrant rights advocates—who last month asked the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to halt deportations to Haiti and extend the eligibility date for Temporary Protected Status (TPS) benefits—Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) reportedly expelled 86 Haitians from the U.S. on Wednesday, banishing them to a country where clean water, food, shelter, and coronavirus vaccines, among other lifesaving necessities, are immensely difficult to obtain.

"That ICE would continue to carry out the mass deportations of our Haitian neighbors—with Haiti in the midst of its worst political, public health, and economic crises yet—is cruel and callous," Rep. Ayanna Pressley (D-Mass.) told The Hill.

In May, DHS permitted Hatians "currently residing in the United States as of May 21, 2021 to file initial applications for TPS, so long as they meet eligibility requirements." Recipients are allowed to live and work in the U.S. without risk of deportation for 18 months.

Following the assassination of former President Jovenel Moïse on July 7, DHS expanded Haiti's TPS designation to include Haitians living in the U.S. as of July 29, 2021. 

"Given the instability and suffering on the ground in Haiti, the last thing we should be doing is deporting Haitians."
—Frank Sharry, America's Voice

However, a week after Moïse was killed, DHS Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas announced that Haitian migrants who attempted to travel to the U.S. via boat would be intercepted by the Coast Guard and either turned back or sent to a third country for resettlement.

Although the TPS designation could protect up to 150,000 Haitians from deportation, potentially thousands of Haitian immigrants entered the U.S. after the July 29 deadline or are stuck in Mexican border cities.

Those who make it to the U.S. are at risk of expulsion, with no opportunity to request asylum, under Title 42. First invoked in March 2020 by former President Donald Trump during the early stages of the coronavirus pandemic, Title 42 is an obscure, 77-year-old public health law that the Trump administration used in an effort to close off the southern U.S. border, effectively denying tens of thousands of vulnerable people the right to seek asylum.

While the Biden administration has continued the harmful policy, deporting hundreds of thousands of individuals, including Haitians, under Title 42—as well as another "expedited removal" procedure—a federal judge on Thursday ordered the White House to end its use of the public health provision following a lawsuit filed by human rights groups.

After the 2010 earthquake that devastated Haiti, the Obama administration—which deported roughly three million people—stopped expelling Haitians for more than a year. Biden has yet to implement a similar moratorium.

"The news of renewed Haitian deportation flights is the type of morally indefensible news we would have expected from the Trump administration, not the Biden administration," said Frank Sharry, executive director of America's Voice. "Given the instability and suffering on the ground in Haiti, the last thing we should be doing is deporting Haitians. These deportation flights should stop, full stop."

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