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U.S. Must Protect Haitians Fleeing Danger

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Mar 22, 2024

As human rights conditions in Haiti rapidly deteriorate, the Center for Gender & Refugee Studies (CGRS) urges the Biden administration to take swift action to protect Haitians fleeing danger. Amidst disturbing reports that the White House is considering intercepting Haitians at sea and imprisoning them at the Guantanamo Bay detention camp, CGRS calls on the administration to instead preserve and expand pathways to safety by:

  • Halting all removal flights and at-sea repatriations to Haiti, to ensure no Haitian is returned to harm, and encouraging other countries in the region to do the same;

  • Extending and redesignating Temporary Protected Status (TPS) for Haiti;

  • Releasing Haitian immigrants and asylum seekers held in U.S. immigration detention;

  • Expediting applications and expanding the availability of parole for Haitians through the CHNV program; and

  • Rejecting any plans to detain Haitians interdicted at sea at Guantanamo Bay or other offshore detention facilities.

CGRS Legal Director Blaine Bookey offered the following comment:

“Haitians escaping violence and persecution should be welcomed with compassion, never punished or returned to the very horrors they have fled. The U.S. government has a legal and moral obligation to ensure meaningful access to a fair asylum process, whether Haitians are arriving at our borders by land or sea. The Biden administration must immediately suspend all deportation flights and at-sea repatriations and redesignate TPS to keep our Haitian immigrant communities safe.”

“The United States has a unique responsibility to Haitian refugees, as centuries of destructive U.S. interference have contributed to the very conditions forcing people to flee Haiti in the first place. Our government’s backing of Prime Minister Ariel Henry marked the latest in a long history of failed U.S. interventions crushing democracy and deepening political and economic insecurity in Haiti. The Biden administration took a step in the right direction in calling for Henry's resignation. It now must not undermine Haitian-led efforts at democracy by forcibly returning people to a country that cannot safely receive them.

“As conditions in Haiti become even more untenable, Haitian families, children, and adults continue to brave arduous journeys in search of safety in the United States. Earlier this month CGRS traveled to Mexico with our partners at Haitian Bridge Alliance and the UC Law SF Haiti Justice Partnership. There we spoke with Haitian migrants who had suffered brutal kidnappings, anti-Black violence, and other human rights abuses while languishing in squalid conditions. While stranded in Mexico, many are receiving devastating reports from family members trapped in Haiti who are suffering an even worse fate.”

“The suffering of Haitian asylum seekers I witnessed is the direct result of draconian U.S. and Mexican policies designed to block refugees from seeking protection, from the Biden administration’s unlawful asylum ban and turnback policies, to Mexican officials’ mass evictions of migrant encampments. These cruel measures cause disparate harm to Haitian other Black asylum seekers and occur against the backdrop of decades of inhumane and discriminatory treatment of Haitians seeking refuge.”