migrants cross rio grande

Migrants carry food across Rio Grande from Mexico to a makeshift encampment on the U.S. side on September 18, 2021. (Photo: Antonio Ojeda/Agencia Press South/Getty Images)

'Infuriating Disappointment': Biden DHS Ramping Up Deportations to Haiti

"It is unconscionable for the Biden administration to resume deportation flights to Haiti, despite the country's ongoing political, economic, and environmental disasters."

Still under fire from human rights advocates after appealing a court order to stop using the Covid-19 pandemic as justifation for expelling asylum-seeking families, the Biden administration on Saturday confirmed that it is ramping up deportations to Haiti and elsewhere.

"It's time to immediately stop all deportation and expulsion flights to Haiti. And to--finally--commit to a welcoming and fair approach at the border."
--Clara Long, HRW

"It is unconscionable for the Biden administration to resume deportation flights to Haiti, despite the country's ongoing political, economic, and environmental disasters," tweeted Families Belong Together. "Stop these flights now and #WelcomeWithDignity!"

Faced with thousands of migrants, mostly Haitians, who huddled under and around a bridge in "squalid conditions," the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) on Saturday put out a statement detailing the administration's six-step strategy for the situation in the Texas border city of Del Rio.

DHS closed the Del Rio Port of Entry and surged hundreds of agents and officers to the area, the statement said. Federal officials are relocating the migrants to other processing locations and "undertaking urgent humanitarian actions" to improve conditions for those on U.S. soil.

Confirming reports from late Friday, the statement also said that the department "will secure additional transportation to accelerate the pace and increase the capacity of removal flights to Haiti and other destinations in the hemisphere within the next 72 hours."

The Biden administration "is working with source and transit countries in the region to accept individuals who previously resided in those countries," the statement added. "The White House has directed appropriate U.S. agencies to work with the Haitian and other regional governments to provide assistance and support to returnees."

Clara Long, an associate director with the U.S. Program at Human Rights Watch (HRW), responded to the administration's strategy in a series of tweets, saying that "it is anti-Black, promises to use unfair procedures, and is, well, just frankly an infuriating disappointment."

Given the current state of Haiti, following a deadly earthquake and tropical storm last month as well as the July assassination of former President Jovenel Moise, human rights advocates have demanded an immediate halt to deportations of Haitians from the United States.

Reps. Nydia Velazquez (D-N.Y.) and Ayanna Pressley (D-Mass.), chair of the House Haiti Caucus, led dozens of lawmakers in a letter (pdf) to the Biden administration echoing that call on Friday.

"We have a moral obligation to lead with compassion," declared Pressley. "That means immediately halting the cruel and callous deportations of our Haitian neighbors and leveraging every resource available to support those fleeing the humanitarian crisis on the island."

According to Pressley's office, "Massachusetts is home to the third largest Haitian diaspora community in the country."

Sen. Ed Markey (D-Mass.) responded Saturday to reporting on the administration's plans by renewing his call to halt deportations to Haiti.

"Haiti is still reeling from Covid, political instability, a recent earthquake, and tropical storm," Markey tweeted. "We should be focused on a humanitarian effort, not deporting people back to an unstable environment."

DHS explained that "the majority of migrants continue to be expelled" under Title 42 authority, and those who cannot be deported using that public health policy "and do not have a legal basis to remain will be placed in expedited removal proceedings."

President Joe Biden has earned global criticism for continuing the Trump administration's policy invoking Title 42, a section of the Public Health Safety Act, to swiftly expel asylum-seekers. After negotiations with the Biden administration failed to end the practice, human rights advocates resumed a legal challenge they initiated under former President Donald Trump.

A federal judge on Thursday ordered the Biden administration to end the Title 42 expulsions of migrant families. The administration announced Friday it is appealing that ruling.

Tami Goodlette, director of litigation at RAICES, one of the advocacy groups behind the legal challenge, blasted the Biden administration for "doubling down in its defense of this barbaric Trump policy."

By defending the "inhumane and unlawful" Title 42 policy, the administration made clear that "it is willing to deny asylum-seeking families their right to a full and fair process to receive protection in the United States," she said, urging the White House to "rectify this rash decision to appeal and end the suffering for these families once and for all."

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