Next steps on Haiti: What will Biden do?

This week there was greater attention put toward U.S. policy in Haiti. The Biden administration continues to support the Moise government, despite the broad based opposition to his continued rule in Haiti. The crisis in Haiti seems to be at a stalemate at the moment, in part, as a result of Biden’s State Department backing Moise. Protests continue - as do the kidnappings. Meanwhile, Biden continues to remove people to Haiti despite outcries from all sectors: , editorial boards across the country (for example, , , ), and .

While we, and most of the people mentioned below, argue that the solution to the current crisis must come from within Haiti, this cannot happen until the Biden administration changes course.  With that in mind, below I share some of the latest discussions on the crisis and U.S. policy.

Removals Continue!

As I am writing, there is a flight on the way to Port-au-Prince from Laredo, Texas (Friday, March 12). Like many of the other 19 flights that have left for Haiti from the U.S. since February 1, 2021, the people on this flight are being expelled under a Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) order referred to as “Title 42.” Under Title 42 people encountered at the border are summarily expelled, given no chance to seek asylum or other relief. Most are expelled back into Mexico. The majority of people from Haiti, however, are taken into custody where they are detained until they can be flown out.

In February, the Biden administration expelled 984 Haitians to Haiti. Another 76 Haitians (at least) were expelled into Mexico. Almost all under Title 42. Vice ran a story about these expulsions which you can .

So far in March, the Biden administration has expelled at least 300 people by plane to Haiti.

As we noted last week, by comparison, the Trump administration removed 895 people in all of FY2020.

Haiti is the focus of Foreign Affairs Committee

The House Foreign Affairs Committee held a hearing today (March 12): Policy Recommendations on Haiti for the Biden Administration. The message was clear: the infrastructure is not in place for elections this year; Haitian civil society should lead on any transition, though the United States government has some role to play in speaking out against violations of rights and sanctioning individuals; the United States should not be defending Moise’s position on tenure. Guerline Jozef specifically testified on the need to halt removals to Haiti.

Testifying at the hearing were

Ms. Emmanuela Douyon, Policy Expert and Activist - Nou Pap Dòmi

Ms. Guerline Jozef, President - Haitian Bridge Alliance

Ms. Rosy Auguste, Program Director - National Network for the Defense of Human Rights (RNDDH)

The Honorable Pamela A. Whie, Former U.S. Ambassador to Haiti- U.S. Department of State

You can watch the hearing

Some notable op-eds this week

Brian Concannon of Project Blueprint (former director of the Institute for Justice and Democracy in Haiti) wrote an excellent opinion piece for Responsible Statecraft, published this week, on March 9th. He writes, 

As thousands of Haitians protest each Sunday against Jovenel Moïse, their embattled and increasingly authoritarian president, their protest signs and songs exhort the U.S. ambassador and the head of the United Nations mission in Haiti, who is also a career U.S. diplomat, “to stop supporting a dictatorship.” The protests reflect a broad consensus among politicians, intellectuals, lawyers and others in Haiti, supported by human rights experts and members of the U.S. Congress, that the Biden administration is propping up Moïse and preventing the emergence of a Haitian-led solution to the political crisis.….Further descent into autocracy in Haiti, however, is not inevitable, and the Biden administration can help stop it. Washington does not have to — and should not — bring Moïse down; rather, it should just stop propping him up. 

You can read the full article

Pierre Esperance and Rosy Auguste Ducena of the National Network for the Defense of Human Rights offer their reflections on the U.S. role in a piece published by Just Security on March 10th.

We see hope in the fact that some powerful Democrats in the U.S. Congress don’t agree with the Biden administration’s approach to Moïse. As Haitian human rights leaders, we know one thing for sure: the status quo is unacceptable. Under the Moïse regime, we are living in a dictatorship. This state of affairs is exacerbated by the proliferation of gangs and kidnappers supported by the Moïse regime. We have become victims of a state of terror.

It is time for the Biden administration to align its policies with its principles. The United States needs to reverse its policy of standing by Moïse, consult with Haitian civil society to help inform its approach going forward, and take the powerful step of placing democracy and human rights at the center of its foreign policy towards Haiti.

You can read the full article .

Finally, a forceful editorial from the Miami Herald calling on the administration to end Title 42 and suspend removals to Haiti:

A Feb. 23 letter to Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas, spearheaded by Miami U.S. Rep. Frederica Wilson — and signed by 61 House colleagues — said: ”In many cases these deportees are families and children who likely pose no security threat. The Trump administration misused Title 42 to summarily expel hundreds of thousands of migrants while denying them due process and access to the asylum system in contravention of international legal obligations.

“Numerous public health experts have also called on the CDC to rescind the Title 42 order as it has no scientific basis as a public health measure.”

Both are salient points. We will add a third: Immigrants are not the enemy here. And to deny them any semblance of due process is simply wrong. (emphasis added)

You can read the full editorial .