U.S. Diplomat to Haiti Resigns Over Biden Administration Policy

A senior American diplomat who oversees Haiti policy has resigned, two U.S. officials said, submitting a letter to the State Department that excoriated the Biden administration’s “inhumane, counterproductive decision” to send Haitian migrants back to a country that has been wracked this summer by a deadly earthquake and political turmoil.

The diplomat, Daniel Foote, was appointed special envoy to Haiti in July, just weeks after President Jovenel Moïse was killed in his bedroom during a nighttime raid on his residence. Former ambassador to Zambia, Mr. Foote was also acting assistant secretary for international drugs and law enforcement affairs. He did not respond on Thursday morning to requests for comment.

His stinging resignation letter dated Wednesday criticized the Biden administration’s decision to deport some of the thousands who traveled from Central America and Mexico to reach the Texas border in recent days.

“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 in control of daily life,” Mr. Foote wrote in the letter, which was first reported by PBS NewsHour. A top State Department official and a congressional official confirmed its authenticity.

Mr. Foote also blasted a “cycle of international political interventions in Haiti” that “has consistently produced catastrophic results,” and he warned that the number of migrants to American borders “will only grow as we add to Haiti’s unacceptable misery.”

In May, the Biden administration extended temporary protected status for 150,000 Haitians already living in the United States. For Haitians who were in the United States prior to July 29, the order was extended once again. Even though they were not eligible for the program, tens of thousands of Haitians tried to cross into the United States.

According to reports, Mr. Foote pushed for more oversight and responsibilities in the role of envoy to Haiti. These efforts were rejected by high-ranking State Department officials. The department’s spokesman, Ned Price, on Thursday described proposals put forward, including by Mr. Foote, that “were determined to be harmful to our commitment to the promotion of democracy in Haiti and were rejected during the policy process.”

“No ideas are ignored, but not all ideas are good ideas,” Mr. Price said. He was responding to Mr. Foote’s claim, in his resignation letter, that his recommendations were “ignored and dismissed.”

“Our policy approach to Haiti remains deeply flawed,” Mr. Foote wrote.

The rise in Haitian migration began in the months after President Biden took office, when he quickly began reversing former President Donald J. Trump’s strictest immigration policies, which was interpreted by many as a sign that the United States would be more welcoming to migrants.

U.S. Border Patrol stated that over 9,000 migrants, mostly from Haiti and Texas, were being held in temporary areas under the Del Rio International Bridge in Texas, while agents worked quickly to process them.

According to U.S. Customs and Border Protection, approximately 1,400 Haitians were deported since Sunday. More flights are scheduled each day. On Thursday, approximately 4,050 migrants, mostly Haitians, were still at the Del Rio Bridge.

In the coming weeks, up to 14,000 migrants could be returning to Haiti. Haitian officials have pleaded with the United States to grant a “humanitarian moratorium,” amid widespread instability.

The highest number of border crossings in decades has seen the Biden administration impose policies to limit the flow of migrants. Alejandro N. Mayorkas was the secretary of Department of Homeland Security. He stated that the temporary residence order which was extended earlier in this year would not cover newly arrived Haitians.

“We are very concerned that Haitians who are taking this irregular migration path are receiving false information that the border is open or that temporary protected status is available,” Mayorkas stated this during Monday’s news conference in Del Rio, Texas. “I want to make sure that it is known that this is not the way to come to the United States.”

Officials at Haiti’s Embassy in Washington did not respond to messages for comment Thursday morning.

In a statement, the State Department thanked Mr. Foote for his service and said “the United States remains committed to supporting safe, orderly, and humane migration throughout our region.”

The statement said that the United States and the United Nations’ immigration agency was trying to make sure that Haitians who are deported are met at the Port-au-Prince airport and given a meal, a hygiene kit and $100.

“Over 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 security and the protection of human rights in Haiti,” the department’s statement said.

Eileen Sullivan contributed reporting.

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