Resignation exposes Biden's asylum policy failure

October 1, 2021 - 17:54

TEHRAN - The resignation of the U.S. special envoy to Haiti in protest against the administration of President's Joe Biden immigration policy speaks volumes about the American President's campaign pledge to reverse his predecessor's "cruel" policies on asylum seekers.

Following the assassination of Haiti's President and the ensuing political unrest and violence, advocates had expected Biden to take a more "humane" approach than the previous administration towards refugees fleeing their country and seeking temporary asylum in the United States. That hope was based on President Biden's Presidential campaign pledge to reverse what many advocacy groups described as Trump's "cruel" crackdown on asylum seekers that saw children separated from their parents and locked up in cages.

However, the mass deportation of Haitian asylum seekers who had fled their country in search of security in the U.S. has been widely condemned among refugee rights groups. A U.S. senior official claims Foote had called on Washington to assist with reinstating law and order and that this request was rejected.

“I will not be associated with the U.S. inhumane decision to deport thousands of Haitian refugees” In essence, the Biden administration has failed to handle a recent surge of Haitian asylum seekers fleeing the implosion of the country's society after the assassination in July of its President, Jovenel Moise, which triggered chaos and was followed by a powerful earthquake in August. After about 14,000 asylum seekers gathered in an impromptu camp under a bridge in Del Rio, Texas, the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement bureau started flying hundreds out on multiple flights every day, without the opportunity for asylum appeals or hearings. This practice is against international law.

Foote, who served as deputy chief of mission in Haiti and ambassador in Zambia, was appointed special envoy after Moise's killing, which remains unsolved. In his letter to the U.S Secretary of State, Antony Blinken, he says, "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 to daily life."

Foote adds, "our policy approach to Haiti remains deeply flawed, and my policy recommendations have been ignored and dismissed, when not edited to project a narrative different from my own... the people of Haiti, mired in poverty, hostage to the 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."

The former special envoy argues that the deportation policy was self-defeating as it would only fuel more migration saying, "the collapsed state is unable to provide security or basic services, and more refugees will fuel further desperation and crime. Surging migration to our borders will only grow as we will add to Haiti's unacceptable misery."

The deportations are being carried out under a previously obscure public health law, Title 42, which was controversially used for summary expulsions by the Trump administration but has continued under his successor Biden. The head of the UN refugee agency, Filippo Grandi, has said the use of Title 42 without any due process or screening for "potential peril" faced by deportees is a possible violation of international law.

The publication of Foote's letter comes just days after shocking and disturbing pictures were published showing U.S. border patrol agents on horseback using their whips on desperate black Haitian refugees on the U.S. southern border.

Both human rights groups have strongly condemned the Biden administration for the deportations and the treatment of the asylum seekers. Immigration rights organizations recently rallied in 25 cities across the United States to highlight what they describe as the President's failure to deliver the "humane, just immigration policy" he promised. Marcela Hernandez, organizing director for Detention Watch, one of the groups behind the rallies, says, "Biden has failed to act on all of his promises."

In addition to Biden's continued defense of Title 42, Hernandez pointed out that detentions are up more than 60 percent since Biden assumed office, and there has been no significant reduction in funding towards the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement. 

She says, "we thought it was going to get better, but it's getting worse."

In footage first broadcast by Al Jazeera, white border patrol agents on horses can be seen threatening, insulting, and even lashing at black asylum seekers with their horses' reins, shouting at them to stay in Mexico. The images, which quickly spread across the globe, sparked significant outrage among the international community. Some mainstream U.S. media were also quick to jump to the defense of the border agents. Right-wing American media outlets, for example, were quick to point out that border patrol agents are not issued whips with their gear. Still, you don't need to be a nuclear scientist to figure out when a horse's rein is used as a whip; it essentially becomes a whip.

Chains, whips, horses, and bloodhounds, branding irons were some of the tools used during New World slavery to preserve white hegemony over the black American community. Most Americans know this, and analysts say they hold on to the hope that the U.S. does not return to such brutality. According to experts, every part of that miserable system of treating black people in America was degrading. They say it was mainly degrading to the enslaved and the slaveholders, who lost more of their humanity each passing day that this barbaric system went on.

History displays America's border hypocrisy. Yet the more significant point is that every national border is a place that offers those who pass two options: sanctuary or terror. The images are emerging from the southern American border, explicitly recalling the collective shame of America's past, are pointing in the wrong direction. Analysts say this explains why the White House, which has executive authority over the border patrol, was quick to condemn the footage.

The White House is also making preparations to reopen a migrant detention center at the notorious Guantanamo Bay, close to the prison camp for detainees picked up in the U.S.' so-called "war on terror" and has already asked private contractors for contracts to supply guards who speak Creole and Spanish.

Democratic congresswoman Alexandra Ocasio-Cortez labeled the plan as "utterly shameful." White House spokeswoman, Jen Psaki, claims the Guantanamo migrant center was not intended for migrants detained on the southern border. But with this current U.S. administration in power, not much can be taken seriously. The center itself had not been operational for around four years. Speaking at a Press Conference, White House spokesperson Jen Psaki failed to clarify why a decision has been taken to reopen it.

The Department of Homeland Security, which oversees Immigration and Customs Enforcement, says it had deported more than 1,500 asylum seekers from the southern border to Haiti and taken 3,500 others into custody.

This is not the only policy campaign that Biden has pledged or promised to rectify after taking over from Trump but failed to do so. As the criticism increases following the disastrous withdrawal from Afghanistan, Biden's first year in office is not looking politically good. Polls indicate his popularity is falling.

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