Diplomat quits Biden administration for turning away Haitian refugees

The U.S. special envoy for Haiti resigned his post over what he called an “inhumane” decision to send back thousands of Haitian migrants.

A career U.S. diplomat to Haiti has resigned over the Biden administration’s “inhumane” decision to deport thousands of Haitians attempting to enter the U.S. back to the island nation.

Ambassador Daniel Foote, a special envoy for Haiti, said in his resignation letter to Secretary of State Antony Blinken that he could not be associated with the government’s “inhumane, counterproductive decision to deport thousands of Haitian refugees.”

He has been in his post for two months, as the humanitarian crisis unfolded. Foote was named special envoy in July just weeks after the assassination of Haiti’s president plunged the country into political turmoil.

The Western Hemisphere’s poorest country has been grappling with an array of crises including the proliferation of powerful armed gangs, food insecurity, the spread of the coronavirus and the aftermath of a deadly earthquake in August.

Haitian refugees

Lawmakers also criticized treatment of Haitian migrants trying to cross the U.S.-Mexico border, as the U.S. increased deportation flights out of Texas, as top Biden administration officials condemned Border Patrol agents who were on horseback when they were caught on camera chasing and whipping asylum-seekers.

“I will not be associated with the United States’ inhumane, counterproductive decision to deport thousands of Haitian refugees and illegal immigrants to Haiti, a country where American officials are confined to secure compounds because of the danger posed by armed gangs in control of daily life,” Foote wrote in his resignation letter, adding that the administration’s plan for the refugees is “deeply flawed.”

Haiti is a “collapsed state is unable to provide security or basic services,” Foote wrote.

He went on to say that sending the refugees back “will fuel further desperation and crime,” and those negative effects will have “calamitous consequences not only in Haiti, but in the U.S. and our neighbors in the hemisphere.”

A State Department spokesperson acknowledged the special envoy’s resignation, saying, “We thank Ambassador Foote for his service in this role.”

Foote also criticized the administration’s support of Haiti’s embattled interim prime minister, Ariel Henry, which he called reminiscent of the “puppeteering” of Haitian politics by the United States in prior decades.

Foote’s action was applauded by progressive Democrat Lisa McCormick, who said she is is disappointed that polling numbers seem to be more important than the work the White House is doing, because Americans would back a strong stand on values by the president while Trump-loving critics are going to remain opposed to Biden even if his policies are cruel.

“You miss 100% of the shots you don’t take, and President Joe Biden failed to display courageous leadership on immigration,” said McCormick. “They came to this country searching for a better life, with nothing but the clothes on their backs. Like Cuban refugees who came in tiny boats and swarmed onto U.S. soil during the summer of 1980, they are searching for a better life but found only bureaucratic red tape, jail cells and deportation.”

American history is filled with stories of people just like those we are turning away,” said McCormick. “The United States has been called a nation of miracles and before he was president, John F. Kennedy wrote a book that proclaimed America is a nation of immigrants.

Thousands of Haitians are seeking to enter the country, and images this week of border agents on horseback corralling migrants stoked outrage.

Democrats have also been criticizing the resumption of flights deporting Haitians back to the island nation, which recently suffered a serious earthquake in August a month after its president was assassinated.

The U.S. has returned more than 500 Haitians via flights that began last week.

Foote was appointed special envoy for Haiti in late July following the assassination of Haitian President Jovenel Moïse. He had previously served as deputy chief of mission in Haiti.

In his letter, Foote described a country mired in poverty and gang violence and said the people of Haiti “simply cannot support the forced infusion of thousands of returned migrants lacking food, shelter, and money without additional, avoidable human tragedy.”

“The collapsed state is unable to provide security or basic services, and more refugees will fuel further desperation and crime,” Foote wrote. “Surging migration to our borders will only grow as we add to Haiti’s unacceptable misery.”

He also criticized the U.S. for its involvement in the political fallout following the assassination, backing the de facto prime minister, warning that such interventions have “consistently produced catastrophic results.”

“The hubris that makes us believe that we should pick the winner — again — is impressive,” Foote wrote.

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