Daniel Foote testifies during a Senate Foreign Affairs Committee hearing on Cartels and the U.S. Heroin Epidemic on Capitol Hill May 26, 2016 in Washington, DC.
Drew Angerer | Getty Images
WASHINGTON – A senior State Department official overseeing the Biden administration’s Haiti policy has resigned, citing the “inhuman, counterproductive” response by the United States to the recent surge in Haitian migrants along the southern border.
Diplomat Daniel Foote was appointed US special envoy to Haiti by President Joe Biden in late July after incumbent President Jovenel Moïse was assassinated.
“Our political approach to Haiti remains flawed and my recommendations have been ignored and rejected,” Foote wrote on Wednesday in a damning resignation letter received by NBC News.
The State Department denies that Foote’s proposals were ignored. Instead, department spokesman Ned Price said some of them were “rejected” because they were seen as “detrimental” to promoting democracy in Haiti.
Foote wrote that his decision to step down now was in response to the decision by US immigration authorities to deport thousands of Haitian migrants to Haiti.
“The Haitian people, plunged into poverty, hostage to terrorism, kidnappings, robberies and armed gang massacres, and suffering from a corrupt government with gang alliances, can infuse thousands of returned migrants who are in need of food, shelter and money at no extra , Avoidable Human Tragedy, “wrote Foote.
However, Price accused Foote of “not having used sufficient opportunities during his tenure to raise concerns about migration and instead chose to resign.”
A United States Border Patrol agent on horseback tries to prevent a Haitian migrant from leaving on Aug.
Paul Ratje | AFP | Getty Images
Since mid-September, more than 10,000 Haitian migrants have attempted to cross the Rio Grande and enter the United States from Mexico near the tiny Texan city of Del Rio. The result was a double humanitarian crisis and a border crisis, with thousands of migrants gathering under a bridge with no food, water or shelter.
In response, US border guards arrested thousands of people. While families with children were largely allowed to apply for asylum, 1,401 people have been flown back to Haiti since the start of the deportation flights on Sunday, White House spokeswoman Jen Psaki said on Thursday.
Psaki said fewer than 500 migrants stayed at the Del Rio Bridge site on Thursday.
The surge was triggered by several convergent factors, including the collapse of the Haitian government in July, an earthquake in August that killed more than 2,000 people, and the mistaken belief that the Biden government gave newly arrived Haitian migrants asylum and protection status would grant.
“The collapsed state is unable to provide security or basic services, and more refugees will fuel the desperation and crime,” wrote Foote.
Foote’s resignation is the latest blow to the Biden government, which is grappling with the flood of Haitian migrants.
A migrant seeking refuge in the United States wades through the Rio Grande from Ciudad Acuna, Mexico, towards Del Rio, Texas, United States after receiving supplies in Ciudad Acuna, Mexico on September 22, 2021.
Daniel Becerril | Reuters
Many of the migrants have not lived in Haiti for years after they fled the country to look for work in South America after the devastating earthquake in Haiti in 2010.
The fact that they have not recently lived in Haiti complicates the legal question of whether they qualify as refugees from the riots in Haiti, as well as the ethical question of whether they should be sent back to a country that many of them do haven’t seen years.
In Washington, President Joe Biden has been harshly criticized by refugee organizations and key Democrats in Congress for his administration’s response to this recent border crisis.
They accuse the White House of relying on a controversial Covid-19 public health rule known as Title 42, which allows immigration authorities to deport most undocumented cross-border commuters immediately without first giving them a chance to give, to apply for asylum.
On Tuesday the Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer called on Biden and Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas to “put an end to these expulsions immediately and to end this Title 42 policy on our southern border”.
“We cannot continue this hateful and xenophobic Trump policy that disregards our refugee laws,” added Schumer.
— CNBC’s Kevin Breuninger contributed to coverage of this story.