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March 03, 2021

NGO Letter to Biden Administration on Asylum Seeker Expulsions to Haiti

Dear President Biden, Vice President Harris, Secretary Blinken, and Secretary Mayorkas:

We, the undersigned, write to express our horror and outrage regarding the United States government’s plan to deport over 1,800 people to Haiti, which, with painful irony, the Biden-Harris Administration started on the first day of Black History Month. As Congressional Representative Mondaire Jones said, “We’re just three days into #BlackHistoryMonth and ICE has already sent planes full of Black people to Cameroon and Haiti in defiance of @POTUS’ executive order.”

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Deportation flights to Haiti in the midst of a deadly global pandemic and a major in-country uprising are cruel and unconscionable. We fear for the children being sent into the middle of this chaos. There were twenty-six children on the February 9, 2021 flight to Haiti, some as young as two months old. We liken this scenario to a house burning, and instead of taking people out for their own safety, the United States is sending defenseless babies into the inferno.

We strongly urge the government to halt all deportation and expulsion flights to Haiti. While nationwide unrest and political turmoil bring Haiti to “the verge of explosion,” Immigration and Customs Enforcement (“ICE”) has deported more than 1000 people to Haiti in furtherance of its goal of deporting 1,800 by mid-February. According to credible sources, the February 9, 2021 flight included five pregnant women, including two women who were almost at full term (36-weeks and 35-weeks pregnant), risking the health and safety of these expectant mothers. The flight also reportedly included twenty-six children, including eighteen toddlers who were three years old or under. Children at this stage in their development are subject to lasting trauma and mental health disorders caused by their families’ imprisonment, mistreatment, and deportation by ICE. 

We strongly urge the government to stop expelling Haitian asylum seekers to Mexico, as it did on February 3, 2021, when it forcefully removed dozens of Haitians to Ciudad Juarez from El Paso, Texas. Some of these families reported that U.S. immigration authorities threw away their personal belongings after holding them in detention for days. They did not have a chance to file for asylum, and now face significant risk of exploitation and anti-Black violence in Mexico because they stand out as Black migrants and do not speak Spanish. Further, conditions on the U.S.-Mexico border become more dangerous by the day. Last month, Mexican police were charged in the massacre of 19 migrants on the border. Only the migrants’ charred bodies, many too burned to be identified, were found. In recent months, there have been reports of Haitian and other women and their newborns being sent to Mexico immediately after giving birth.

We strongly urge the government to end President Donald Trump’s “Title 42” order that allows Customs and Border Protection (“CBP”) and ICE to deport migrants apprehended at the border, as in the El Paso case mentioned above, without allowing them to pursue asylum claims. The Biden Administration’s 100-day moratorium on deportations, which has been temporarily stayed by a Texas Federal Court, did not include protection against Title 42 expulsions. Moreover, notwithstanding the Texas court order, the Administration retains the ability to use prosecutorial discretion in its detention and removal decisions. 

Under the Trump Administration, deportation flights soared in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic, despite numerous reports that detention and deportations put people at great risk of contracting the virus. Deportation flights also export the virus to countries like Haiti that lack the health and other infrastructure to adequately control this deadly pandemic. In addition, “Title 42” (of the U.S. Code) expulsions, as intended, have resulted in a complete border shut down under the false pretext of public health, and denied many of the over 380,000 immigrants expelled under Title 42 in 2020 their right under international human rights law and U.S. law to state a claim of fear of persecution or torture. The vast majority of the young families being deported to Haiti have risked their lives in a long, dangerous, and traumatic journey from Haiti, up through South and Central America, to the U.S. Mexico border, only to be summarily expelled without the chance to request asylum.

We strongly urge the government to halt all flights to Haiti pending review of policies and practices concerning immigration enforcement, which have resulted in systemic discrimination against Black asylum seekers and other Black immigrants. Just one victim of this negligent and discriminatory system is Paul Pierrilus, who was deported to Haiti on February 2, 2021, even though he was not born in Haiti, has never been to Haiti, and is not a Haitian citizen. The only just and appropriate remedy is to return Mr. Pierrilus to his family in New York, who themselves are U.S. citizens.

We strongly urge DHS, in consultation with the State Department, to redesignate Temporary Protected Status (TPS) for Haiti, given the extraordinary and temporary conditions unfolding there that make return unsafe for Haitian’s nationals.

We strongly urge the Biden-Harris Administration, as promised, to restart and improve the Haitian Family Reunification Parole Program (HFRP), including authorizing the National Visa Center (NVC) to issue new invitations for eligible petitioners to apply. 

We are incensed but not surprised by these deportations to Haiti; Haitians have historically been denied access to the United States and continue to be disproportionately denied such access, despite conditions that clearly qualify them to refuge under the law. In fact, the immigration prison system as we know it today, with a goal of mass detention and summary deportation, was started in the early 1980s in response to the thousands of Haitian migrants fleeing the Duvalier dictatorship. 

We note the Haitian government’s irresponsibility in agreeing to receive deportees given the political turmoil, which shows a disregard for the well-being of our brothers and sisters who will face severe hardship or even death upon their return.

In conclusion, we are demanding that this Administration stop these deportations and expulsions immediately. We continue to hope that the Biden-Harris Administration will change course and not continue the same draconian, cruel, evil, and inhumane practices of the Trump Administration. President Biden and Vice President Harris specifically promised the Haitian community and other immigrant communities that they would build back better. We need them to take bold action, provide much needed protection, and honor their promises to our Black immigrant communities.

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