The U.S. Must Stop Deporting Haitians

A Haitian deported from the U.S. carries a child down the boarding stairs as he is returned to Haiti in May.

More than 25,000 Haitians have been deported back to Haiti since President Biden took office, despite the U.S. Embassy in Haiti and other Washington emissaries publicly acknowledging the nation’s grave crisis, especially in the region surrounding the capital, Port-au-Prince.

Ongoing gang violence, street kidnappings, and insecurity have become a humanitarian crisis in Haiti, decried by many human rights groups. Nonetheless, U.S. immigration services continue to repatriate Haitians every week, almost daily, as reported by many news outlets.

It is unacceptable that Washington categorically denies Haitians the right and opportunity to seek refuge or asylum in the U.S..

Despite candidate Biden’s condemnation of Trump’s immigration policies, his administration has maintained the status quo and not demonstrated any compassion or empathy toward the Haitians fleeing their country because of political chaos and the current humanitarian crisis.

Despite candidate Biden’s condemnation of Trump’s immigration policies, his administration has maintained the status quo

The Haitian people and their allies are demanding fair treatment of undocumented Haitians in the United States and an immediate end to their deportation. The Biden administration should allow Haitian refugees to stay in the United States with dignity and without fear while the Haitian people work to overcome their political crisis, which has only sharpened since President Jovenel Moïse’s murder 11 months ago, and put an end to gang violence and kidnappings.

As reported by many news outlets, at least five areas in the Port-au-Prince metropolitan region are primarily controlled by criminal gangs, including popular neighborhoods such as Martissant, Cité de Dieu, Croix-des-Bouquets, Butte Boyer, Croix-des-Missions, Marecage, and Mapou, as well as some areas in Torcelle and, more recently, La Plaine. Many people had to leave their homes, some of which gangs have taken over. Schools and businesses in some of those areas remain closed. Some residents of those areas have described the experience like “living in hell” and despaired that “our children have no future in Haiti.”

As a result, many Haitians have fled the country by boat and arrived in Florida. Unfortunately, although they are “asylum seekers” hoping for a fair trial before a U.S. immigration judge, they are almost all automatically sent back to Haiti upon landing.

“Since June, armed groups have forced the displacement of over 20,000 Haitians from their homes in Martissant and surrounding communities,” reports the Miami Herald. Now, more people have been displaced because of the escalation of gang violence north of the capital.

“Since September, more than 25,000 Haitians have been expelled from the United States and returned to Haiti,” The New York Times reported on Jun. 9, 2022 in an article entitled “U.S. Accelerated Expulsions of Haitian Migrants in May.”

“There does not appear to be an end in sight,” the article continues. “Recently, anticipating a change in border policy that has been put on hold, more Haitians have waited in northern Mexico with plans to cross the border and ask for asylum — a legal right that has been blocked since the beginning of the pandemic.”

The article also addresses the 15,000 Haitians who crossed the Mexican border into Del Rio, Texas last September. “That month, the United States sent a record 58 expulsion flights to Haiti, according to data collected by the International Organization for Migration, which tracks the flights.”

The Trump administration concocted the pretext of Title 42, an obscure provision of U.S. health law that supposedly justifies the immediate deportation of asylum seekers on the grounds that they may carry COVID-19. That the Biden administration continues this practice is both hypocritical and outrageous.

This is not the moment to remain silent and passive. Haitians, Haitian-Americans, and friends of Haiti must join forces to stop the deportation of Haitian refugees and demand that they be treated humanely as they await a chance to make their case to an immigration judge in a fair trial.

Celucien L. Joseph, PhD, is Associate Professor of English at Indian River State College. His most recent books include “Between Two Worlds: Jean Price-Mars, Haiti, and Africa” (2018) and “Revolutionary Change and Democratic Religion: Christianity, Vodou, and Secularism” (2020). He is the Board Secretary of the Haitian Studies Association.

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