Ambassador Daniel Foote, the United States special envoy for Haiti, has resigned in protest of mass deportations by the US of Haitians gathered on the US border with Mexico.
“I will not be associated with the United States’ inhumane, counterproductive decision to deport thousands of Haitian refugees and illegal immigrants to Haiti,” Foote said in a resignation letter.
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Haiti is “a country where American officials are confined to secure compounds because of the danger posed by armed gangs in control of daily life” and US policy is “deeply flawed”, Foote wrote.
Racked by earthquakes and hurricanes, Haiti is struggling with a political crisis following the July 7 assassination of Prime Minister Jovenel Moise by a group of commandos who stormed his private residence. A transitional government is being formed until elections, scheduled for November.
As many as 15,000 Haitian migrants had congregated on both sides of the US border with Mexico at Del Rio, Texas. On Thursday, Department of Homeland Security officials said 1,400 migrants have been returned so far and 3,200 have been moved for processing away from the encampment.
The “collapsed” Haitian state “is unable to provide security or basic services and more refugees will fuel further desperation and crime”, Foote wrote in his resignation letter, complaining top State Department officials had dismissed or ignored his recommendations.
“Surging migration to our borders will only grow as we add to Haiti’s unacceptable misery,” Foote said.
Foote criticised a recent statement of support for “the unelected, de facto Prime minister Dr. Ariel Henry” and said Haitians need the opportunity “to chart their own course, without international puppeteering and favored candidates but with genuine support for that course”.
In response, the State Department said the resignation was “unfortunate” and defended the Biden administration’s policies, saying for the envoy “to say his proposals were ignored is simply false”.
“It is unfortunate that, instead of participating in a solutions-oriented policy process, Special Envoy Foote has both resigned and mischaracterized the circumstances of his resignation,” department spokesman Ned Price said in a statement. “He failed to take advantage of ample opportunity to raise concerns about migration during his tenure and chose to resign instead.”
During a news conference, White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki also said that Foote had “ample opportunity to raise concerns about migration during his tenure”, but had not since immigration was not “his purview”.
“His purview was of course being the special envoy on the ground. His positions and his views were put forward, they were valued, they were heard,” Psaki told reporters.
Meanwhile, Mexican security forces have surrounded a camp of Haitians on the Mexican side of the border, The Associated Press news agency reported.
Migrants who had camped in a park near the Rio Grande River in Ciudad Acuna found state police trucks spaced every 30 feet or so between their tents and the water’s edge on Thursday morning.
The entrance to the park was blocked and just outside, Mexican National Guard troops and immigration agents waited along with three buses.
The Mexican authorities’ operation appeared designed to drive the migrants back across the river into Texas. A fence line and the line of state police vehicles funnelled the migrants back to the crossing point they had been using all week.
Guileme Paterson, a 36-year-old from Haiti, appeared dazed. “It is a difficult moment,” she told AP before beginning to cross the Rio Grande with her husband and their four children.
“Bad, bad, bad, things are going badly,” said Michou Petion, carrying her 2-year-old son in her arms toward the river. Her husband carried bags of their belongings and had several pairs of sneakers dangling around his neck.
“The US is deporting a lot to Haiti, now I don’t know if I can enter or leave,” Petion said.