By Tom Ricker, Haiti Liberté, Feb 23, 2022
On Feb. 22, 2022, President Joseph Biden sent the 200th flight of expelled Haitians back to Haiti from Laredo, TX. That makes about 20,300 Haitians deported from the U.S. since Feb. 1, 2021.
Biden has expelled nearly as many Haitians in 12 months as were deported during the previous 20 years (22,550) under three different presidents. Indeed, Biden’s administration has likely expelled far more. In addition to these official removal numbers, another estimated 8,000 Haitians were expelled back into Mexico in September 2021, voluntarily according to Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Secretary Mayorkas, but in circumstances that make that characterization suspect.
Through the end of January 2022, the Biden administration expelled 19,189 Haitians via flights to Port au Prince and Cap Haitien according to the International Organization on Migration. There have been an additional ten flights from Feb. 1 to Feb. 18 – bringing the estimated total number of people expelled to 20,300 and growing. For regular reporting on flights, see the website Witness at the Border.
Another 8,000 Haitians “volunteered” to return back to Mexico in September 2021, according to Mayorkas, speaking during a press conference about the situation in the Del Rio sector. The degree to which people voluntarily went back into Mexico must be weighed against what they were facing – certain detention and deportation to Haiti. In addition, the entire fiasco that occurred at the Del Rio crossing was an abomination, an orgy of human rights violations. There has been an internal DHS investigation into Border Patrol attacks on Haitian migrants and a lawsuit brought by the Haitian Bridge Alliance and other organizations over the poor treatment of Haitians by U.S. immigration authorities in Del Rio.
The Trump administration expelled 6,691 Haitians. Just over 2,800 of those removals occurred early in 2017, following the Obama administration’s decision to expand deportations to Haiti in October 2016. Indeed, of the 5,567 Haitians expelled in FY 2017, 2,737 were expelled by the Obama administration between October 2016 to January 2017. Most of the rest expelled that year occurred in February to April, and more accurately reflect an Obama policy. Trump announced his intention to suspend Temporary Protected Status (TPS) for Haiti in late 2017 – but that suspension was tied up in courts throughout his presidency.
The Obama administration expelled 6,758 Haitians over an eight year period. As noted above, 40% of those removals occurred in the first four months of FY 2017. TPS was re-designated for Haiti by the Obama administration in 2011 – a year after the massive earthquake that wrecked Port-au-Prince in January of 2010. Despite TPS being in place and the country in shambles, deportations continued for new arrivals and so-called “criminal deportees,” who did not qualify for TPS. The deportations were condemned by the United Nations and others. A detailed report on these removals was published in 2015 jointly by the law clinics at the Universities of Miami and Chicago.
In 2016, the massive increase in deportations was the result of an increase in arrivals of Haitians near San Diego and was intended then (as today) as a deterrent. The Haitians arriving in San Diego were mostly leaving Brazil, where many had relocated after the 2010 earthquake. From 2010 to 2015, Brazil admitted tens of thousands of Haitians in a drive for workers to help prepare for the Olympics and World Cup. Starting in 2015, Brazil fell into a recession, and the situation for Haitians deteriorated quickly. Many tried to come to the United States in 2015 and 2016. They were mostly blocked at the border, as the Obama administration instituted its “metering” system, which forced Haitians to wait in Mexico for their number to be called. Some are still waiting.
The Bush administration deported 9,100 Haitians – during a time that included an increase in removals following the 9/11 attacks and an increase in border militarization more generally. The Bush years also covered the 2004 coup d’etat in Haiti, following which the U.S. Coast Guard interdicted and returned hundreds of Haitians caught at sea – though nothing like the number that had been interdicted in the 1990s. Those numbers are not included here or in any other year, as the people interdicted in this manner rarely make it to the United States.
Take Action to Stop Removals
We need to tell Biden to halt the expulsion of Haitians. At least 85% of these expulsions have taken place using Title 42 policies – a faux public health order issued under the Trump Administration permitting the DHS to expel people without any possibility of asylum screening. So, not only has Biden removed far more Haitians, but he has shut many out of the possibility to apply for asylum in the process and at a time of great distress in Haiti.
This week members of the House and Senate wrote a letter calling on the administration to halt the removals. The letter reads in part: “Haiti is in the midst of a deteriorating political, climate, and economic crisis. In fact, Haitians now face the compounding challenge of increasing food insecurity, malnutrition, waterborne disease epidemics, and high vulnerability to natural hazards, all of which have been exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic. … Haiti simply cannot safely accept the repatriation of its nationals, which is why we are so deeply concerned with the large-scale removals and expulsions of individuals back to Haiti. To that end, we are concerned that the Administration’s use of the Title 42 authority is depriving legitimate asylum seekers the opportunity to pursue their claims, contrary to our obligations under international and domestic law.”
We need to keep up the pressure: the message is halt all removals to Haiti given the current humanitarian crisis, and end Title 42 expulsion for everyone! Send a message to Congress asking them to speak out against this policy.
- Removals under the Biden administration, from International Organization on Migration.
- October 2020 to January 2021, the end of FY 2020 and start of Biden’s term, is estimated based flight reports, The Biden administration has not yet issued the ICE Annual Report for FY 2021.
- FY 2020 ICE Annual Report
- Fiscal years 2003-2019 Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse
- FY 2001 to FY 2002: Immigration and Naturalization Services statistics accessed at Year Book of Immigration Statistics 2002
An earlier version of this article was published on the Quixote Center’s website.
Posted Feb. 25, 2022