US envoy to Haiti resigns, slams migrant deportations

The resignation came after the administration of President Joe Biden began last weekend loading Haitian migrants who crossed into the country from Mexico onto aircraft and flying them back to Haiti.

In this file photo United States Border Patrol agents on horseback try to stop Haitian migrants from entering an encampment on the banks of the Rio Grande near the Acuna Del Rio International Bridge in Del Rio, Texas on 19 September 2021. Picture: Paul Ratje/AFP

PORT-AU-PRINCE - The US special envoy to Haiti resigned Thursday two months after his appointment, denouncing the Biden administration's deportation of Haitian migrants from the US-Mexico border back to their poverty-stricken homeland.

"I will not be associated with the United States inhumane, counterproductive decision to deport thousands of Haitian refugees and illegal immigrants to Haiti," State Department envoy Daniel Foote said in a scathing letter of resignation.

In the letter to US Secretary of State Antony Blinken, Foote described Haiti as a place where US diplomats "are confined to secure compounds because of the danger posed by armed gangs in control of daily life."

"Mired in poverty, hostage to the terror," Foote wrote, the Haitian population "simply cannot support the forced infusion of thousands of returned migrants lacking food, shelter, and money without additional, avoidable human tragedy."

"More refugees will fuel further desperation and crime," he wrote.

The resignation came after the administration of President Joe Biden began last weekend loading Haitian migrants who crossed into the country from Mexico onto aircraft and flying them back to Haiti.

Many of the thousands who crossed the border actually travelled from South America, where many fled years ago from the grinding poverty and violence of Haiti.

It underscored the mounting challenge to Washington from the border, where nearly 209,000 people sought to cross illegally from Mexico in August, more than four times the figure from a year ago.

Many are expelled under COVID-19 controls but an undisclosed number have been registered for court hearings on their status and then released into the country.

THOUSANDS AT THE US BORDER

Since Sunday US immigration officials have sent around 1,400 migrants, including hundreds of children, back to Haiti on 12 flights.

Six more flights were expected to land Thursday in Port-au-Prince and Cap-Haitien, according to an official of the International Organization for Migration.

They were part of some 15,000 migrants, the largest part of them Haitian, who flowed into the Texas border city of Del Rio in recent weeks seeking to remain in the United States.

Footage of the migrants, many of them families, massing under a highway bridge and moving back and forth to Mexico for food, have stunned America and sparked a fresh crisis over migrant policy.

Biden came under strong criticism after photographs and videos showed mounted Border Patrol officers using their horses to try and control the migrants, with some appearing to threaten migrants with their horses' long reins.

That has led to calls from Biden's own Democratic party to give the Haitians asylum rather than fly them back to Haiti.

On Wednesday, Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas said he was in talks with Brazil, Chile and other South American countries to send the migrants back to them.

Tens of thousands of Haitians fled to South America after a major 2010 earthquake wreaked heavy damage across the Caribbean nation.

Thousands more are in southern Mexico, and as many as 19,000 in northern Colombia, planning to make the trek northward to the US border.

'IGNORED AND DISMISSED'

A veteran US diplomat, Foote was named special envoy to Haiti shortly after the 7 July assassination of president Jovenel Moise, which plunged the country's already unstable politics into further turmoil.

In his letter, Foote complained that the Biden administration "ignored and dismissed" his policy recommendations.

In response, State Department spokesperson Ned Price said Foote was involved in top-level policy discussions on Haiti and that he mischaracterised the circumstances of his resignation.

"For him to say his proposals were ignored is simply false," Price said in a statement.

Download the Eyewitness News app to your iOS or Android device.