Back in January of 2018, Donald Trump was being briefed by Dick Durbin (D-IL) and Lindsey Graham (R-SC) about a compromise proposal to cut the visa lottery system, while reallocating the difference to underrepresented countries in Africa and Temporary Protected Status (TPS) holders, such as Haiti. Trump is said to have responded, ““Why do we want all these people from ‘shithole countries’ coming here?” And, “Why do we need more Haitians? Take them out.”
Here was some pretty significant proof of Trump’s racialized worldview - which surprised few, but demanded a response. The social media dance was predictable. Trump was excoriated by many as a racist, while he feigned ignorance, asking “what the fuss was all about,” or, saying “that was taken out of context,” or, his favorite, it was “fake news.”
Against the backdrop of the debate, however, there was an utter lack of attention to what the U.S. was actually doing in Haiti. Democrats predictably called out Trump’s bigotry. Most had, also predictably, ignored Obama’s interventions that had given Haiti a series of presidents widely viewed as illegitimate. The crisis those interventions engendered is ongoing today.
It is not that Trump did better in Haiti. Indeed, aside from this soundbite, his administration paid little attention to Haiti. He offered verbal support for President Moise from time to time when pressed, and provided U.S. funds for police training with little accountability attached. Eventually, Trump’s State Department began talking about elections, and pressing the Haitian government to move in that direction. His Secretary of State went so far as to issue a pretty clear threat to people who stood in opposition to the process in 2020. None of this made Trump any kind of outlier though. Indeed, all of his moves were typical of the U.S. government in Haiti, especially regarding elections.
Biden is no different. His administration continues to press for elections in Haiti, despite a deepening security crisis that makes those elections a dangerous affair for many in the capital where gang violence and kidnappings have increased over the past several months. Biden continues to stand by President Moise, despite increasing evidence of his government’s complicity with some of the gangs in Port au Prince. Just last week, Harvard Law School’s International Human Rights Clinic issued a damning report, that demonstrates:
To date, the Haitian government has failed to hold perpetrators accountable, allowing them to act with near complete impunity. Known perpetrators such as Chérizier, who is implicated as a principal actor in repeated attacks, remain free. Moreover, the government has failed to reckon with the criminal responsibility of officials and police officers within its ranks...Despite indications that Moïse himself has sanctioned the attacks, his role remains unscrutinized by any official investigation. This lack of justice has allowed a culture of impunity to grow, emboldening criminals and leaving civilians vulnerable to politically-motivated violence.
But the most immoral, and frankly baffling gesture from the Biden administration, given all of the above, is that it has not only continued to deport people to Haiti - his administration has radically increased those removals. For this he has been criticized by the New York Times, Washington Post, Miami Herald, Boston Globe, hundreds of human rights activists and organizations, and members of his own party in Congress. But he hasn’t stopped.
There is also a bi-partisan push for Biden to not just halt the removals, but to re-designate Haiti for Temporary Protected Status, so that people already in the United States can stay. Such left-wing radicals as Marco Rubio (R-FL) and Mario Diaz-Balart (R-FL) have called for this, and yet Biden has still refused. Indeed, he has not even reinstated the existing TPS program for Haiti that Trump tried to kill back in 2017 - a move that is still tied up in the courts over the Trump administration’s blatant political calculations in terminating the program that overrode recommendations from State and career DHS personnel to extend it. Biden could make the case moot by redesignating Haiti for TPS. But he hasn’t - even with bi-partisan cover in both the House and Senate.
Meanwhile, Mayorkas claimed Friday during a conference at UCLA that the administration was still studying “country conditions” in order to make a determination.
Really? Just read the Harvard report, or any of the other human rights reports detailing the crisis that have come out over the last two and half years! People are dying in Haiti, victims of political violence. People deported back to Haiti are in hiding, or have simply fled again in fear of their lives. The number of people kidnapped has exploded in recent months. Three weeks ago a gang invaded the community of Bel Air and burned down dozens of homes and killed an unknown number of people - at least the 11th gang-led massacre in 3 years. What more does the Biden team need to know? I mean if they are still confused, then reason would suggest they stop sending people back until they figure it out!
So, yeah, Biden never called Haiti a shithole country, but he is certainly treating the people of the country with a similar lack of respect. And for that he should be quite ashamed. However he feels about it, though, the solution is to act now and save some lives: Halt the removals and redesignate TPS, then re-evaluate U.S. policy, as 69 members of Congress have just requested.