SOME around the world may have thought that with the election of Joe Biden more compassionate treatment of migrants to the US would be shown. But, as the country ramped up the deportations of Haitian migrants over the weekend it is those who expected little change from a Biden administration who were to be proven right.
“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. 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,” said Frank Sharry, executive director of America’s Voice.
Democrats join call for halt to deportations
Haitian officials have also pleaded with the US to stop these deportations. They say their country is in crisis and cannot handle the arrival of thousands of homeless people. So far their pleas are falling on deaf ears.
More than 50 Democratic lawmakers are also calling on the Biden administration to halt the deportations. They point to the continued instability in Haiti and state in their letter to the department of Homeland Security and Health and Human Services that “The Haitian government’s ability to safely receive its citizens will take months, if not years, to secure”.
The administration launched the deportations of the migrants under Title 42, a section of the Public Health Safety Act which had been invoked by former President Donald Trump during the pandemic to quickly expel asylum seekers from the country.
The lawmakers, led by Reps. Ayanna Pressley and Nydia Velázquez, argued the Biden administration should consider indefinitely halting deportations to Haiti, update eligibility for a form of humanitarian relief, and help mitigate Covid 19 in the country.
A statement issued by Pressley said: ”The Biden administration cannot claim it is doing everything it can to support the Haitian community while continuing to unjustly deport Haitians as the island weathers its worst political, public health and economic crises yet.”
A country still in chaos
Haiti is still in chaos after a major earthquake last month which resulted in more than 2,000 deaths and thousands more injuries, as well as the assassination of its late President Jovenel Moise in July.
Last Thursday it was reported that more than 9,000 migrants queued up outside the US border at Del Rio, Texas and the figure is increasing daily. Approximately 12,000 migrants have been camped around a bridge in Del Rio after crossing from Ciudad Acuna, Mexico and these people are among those the US authorities are moving to expel.
Yesterday, more than 320 migrants arrived in Port-au-Prince on three flights, and Haiti said six flights were expected today while the US plans to raise its number of daily expulsion flights to seven on Wednesday – four to Port-au-Prince and three to Cap-Haitien.
Many of those who arrived in Haiti on Sunday wondered where they would sleep and how they would make money to support their families as they lined up to receive plates of rice, beans, chicken and plantains..
All were given $100 and were tested for Covid 19, though authorities were not planning to put them into quarantine, said Marie-Lourde Jean-Charles from the Office of National Migration.
Mexico to add to deportation flights
Mexico said on Sunday that it would also begin deporting Haitians to their homeland. A government official said the flights would leave from towns near the US border and from the border with Guatemala, where the largest group remains.
For several years Haitians have been migrating to the US from South America in large numbers, many having left their homeland after the devastating 2010 earthquake when, according to the Haitian government, the dead numbered more than 300,000.
The earthquake’s magnitude, not seen in Haiti since the 18th century, left the country in ruins with some cities levelled. It was estimated that some three million people, nearly one third of the country’s population, were affected by the earthquake. Of these, over one million were left homeless.
The subsequent outbreak of cholera from the contaminated Artibonite River reached epidemic levels with almost 10,000 dying from the disease.
Much of the aid promised to the country was never received and with this latest earthquake last month it can come as no surprise that both the Haitians already at the US border and their government are begging the US not to deport them to what is clearly an unstable country.
No adequate security or food
The head of Haiti’s national migration office, Jean Negot Bonheur Delva, has said they accept the flights and welcome their people but that with the country in crisis they cannot handle the arrival of thousands of homeless people.
Stating that Haiti could not provide adequate security or food for the returnees Bonheur Delva told the New York Times: ”I am asking for a humanitarian moratorium. The situation is very difficult.”
New York state Sen. Zellnor Myrie added his voice to those begging for the US government to show a little understanding when he tweeted on Sunday: ”The speed and scale at which this country has deported Haitians seeking refuge from utter turmoil is reprehensible and anti-Black. This is cruel.”
The international community waits to see if these pleas will be met with indifference or compassion.
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