The special U.S. envoy to Haiti has abruptly resigned, attacking the administration of President Joe Biden for what he characterized as its "inhumane" and "counterproductive" decision to deport thousands of Haitian migrants back to the Caribbean country.
Ambassador Daniel Foote, who has held the position for just two months, sent his resignation Wednesday to Secretary of State Antony Blinken, contending the U.S. approach to Haiti "remains deeply flawed." He said his advice had been "ignored and dismissed" in Washington "when not edited to project a different narrative from my own."
Since Sunday, the U.S. has been flying hundreds of Haitian migrants back to their homeland after they flocked to the U.S.-Mexican border in Del Rio, Texas, in hopes of entering and then staying in the United States. Many of the migrants, however, have not lived in Haiti for a decade, having moved to Chile, Brazil or other South American countries after escaping the rubble of Haiti's massive 2010 earthquake.
The U.S. has allowed thousands of the Haitian migrants into the U.S. to seek asylum but is sending others back on up to seven flights a day to Port-au-Prince, the Haitian capital, or to the country's second-biggest city, Cap-Haitien.
State Department spokesperson Ned Price rebuffed Foote's complaints, saying his views, along with those of others, "were fully considered in a rigorous and transparent policy process. Some of those proposals were determined to be harmful to our commitment to the promotion of democracy in Haiti and were rejected during the policy process. For him to say his proposals were ignored is simply false."
The top U.S. diplomatic agency said it was "unfortunate that instead of participating in a solutions-oriented policy process, Special Envoy Foote has both resigned and mischaracterized the circumstances of his resignation. He failed to take advantage of ample opportunity to raise concerns about migration during his tenure and chose to resign instead."
In his resignation letter, Foote, a career diplomat, said, "The people of Haiti, mired in poverty, hostage to terror, kidnappings, robberies, and massacres of armed gangs and suffering under a corrupt government with gang alliances, simply cannot support the forced infusion of thousands of returned migrants lacking food, shelter, and money without additional, avoidable human tragedy."
Foote's attack on the government's Haitian deportations is the latest complaint about the chaotic scene at the border at Del Rio, where as many as 14,000 Haitians encamped last weekend under an international bridge between the U.S. and Mexico.
The number now has been sharply cut with the deportations of hundreds of Haitians and the U.S. processing of even more migrants to stay on U.S. soil on the promise they will report to an immigration office within 60 days for asylum claims.
Numerous human rights groups have called for ending the deportations, while conservative Republican critics of Biden have assailed his administration for allowing thousands of Haitians into the U.S. rather than forcing them to make their asylum claims from wherever they were living before trekking through Mexico to reach the United States.
Horse patrols suspended
Meanwhile, U.S. immigration officials are investigating widely viewed videos and photographs of U.S. border agents on horseback corralling some Haitian migrants last Sunday to push them back toward Mexico.
The actions of the agents have been widely condemned by the White House and top government officials, but no conclusions have been reached yet about how the agents were performing their jobs. On Thursday, the Department of Homeland Security temporarily suspended use of horse patrols at the border.
White House press secretary Jen Psaki said Wednesday the U.S. is deporting Haitians to their homeland under a health code provision citing the coronavirus pandemic as a reason to clear the border as quickly as possible.
These deportees are being sent home without the opportunity to request asylum proceedings, while others are being registered and permitted, at least for weeks, to stay on U.S. soil. Officials say there are various reasons why individuals may not be expelled.
Seven flights to Haiti are set for Thursday.
Immigration activists say the migrants being deported should be allowed to make asylum claims to stay in the U.S.
Leading Democrat speaks out
Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer, normally an ally of Biden, this week urged the U.S. leader and Homeland Security chief Alejandro Mayorkas "to immediately put a stop to these expulsions," contending the flights echoed "the hateful and xenophobic" policies of former president Donald Trump "that disregard our refugee laws."
Mayorkas told a congressional hearing that government officials hope to clear out the migrant camp under the bridge at Del Rio within the next nine or 10 days.
"We expect to see dramatic results in the next 48 to 96 hours, and we'll have a far better sense in the next two days," he said.
Texas Governor Greg Abbott, a staunch critic of Biden's administration and its handling of migrants at the border, ordered state workers to line up dozens of state-owned cars in a kilometers-long "steel wall" to prevent more migrants from surging past overwhelmed U.S. border agents into Texas.
The Texas governor blamed the Biden administration for the chaos at the border.
"When you have an administration that is not enforcing the law in this country, when you have an administration that has abandoned any pretense of securing the border and securing our sovereignty, you see the onrush of people," Abbott said earlier this week at a news conference in Del Rio.