State Department official calls Title 42 policy ‘illegal,’ urges end to Haitian deportations



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“Simply put, Haiti is a humanitarian nightmare,” Koh writes. “Just last week, the head of Haiti’s national migration office, Jean Negot Bonheur Delva, requested a humanitarian moratorium on the mass deportation of Haitian migrants from the United States. He emphasized that Haiti is in crisis after Moïse’s July assassination and the August 2021 earthquake and that ‘ongoing security issues’ made the prospect of resettling thousands of new arrivals hard to imagine, because Haiti cannot provide adequate security or food for the returnees.”

Nearly 350 groups have previously noted that the Obama administration halted Haitian deportations for a year, following the nation’s 2010 earthquake. That administration again temporarily halted deportations in 2016, after Hurricane Matthew. The Biden administration can do this as well. “Yet news sources suggest as many as 4600 have been returned to Haiti since September 19, 2021,” Koh continued. Per CBS News, that number is now at more than 7,000 Haitian asylum-seekers and migrants, including children, over 65 deportation flights. 

“This unfortunate policy cannot be set in stone,” he writes. “What makes this situation all the more unacceptable is that more lawful alternatives exist.” He writes the Biden administration should “immediately suspend all Title 42 flights, but especially to Haiti.”

“Our recent efforts to assist tens of thousands of vulnerable Afghans show the best that the United States can do to protect individuals at risk in a crisis,” he noted. “That effort reflects the U.S. commitment to a robust refugee admissions program that ‘is one of the most visible manifestations of a values-based foreign policy, demonstrating American humanitarian leadership.’ Yet our actions and approaches regarding Afghan refugees stand in stark contrast to the continuing use of Title 42 to rebuff the pleas of thousands of Haitians and myriad others arriving at the southern border who are fleeing violence, persecution, or torture.”

“Koh had been an internal critic of the Biden administration’s deportation policy for months, but the 3,000-word memo amounted to his lengthiest criticism of the policy, according to a State Department official who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss internal matters,” The Post noted. Koh left for Oxford University last week; Politico reports that an administration official claimed the move had been planned. Last month, Daniel Foote, U.S. special envoy to Haiti, outright resigned over Haitian people’s treatment. 

The Post’s report further notes that White House Press Sec. Jen Psaki claimed Title 42 “remains in place because we are in the middle of a pandemic.” But as I’ve repeatedly noted, a top CDC official initially balked at the previous administration’s attempt to implement the policy, “saying there was no valid public health reason to issue it,” the Associated Press (AP) reported last October. So, the previous White House intervened. “That was a Stephen Miller special. He was all over that,” a former Mike Pence aide told the AP.

Four U.N. agencies just days ago issued a call to “countries in the Americas” to “uphold the fundamental human rights of Haitians,” urging them to “refrain” from deporting vulnerable people “without proper assessment of their individual protection needs.” They wrote that “[i]nternational law prohibits collective expulsions and requires that each case be examined individually to identify protection needs under international human rights and refugee law.” In his memo, Kohn plainly states that “Title 42 returns violate U.S. non-refoulement obligations.


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