Home >Politics >News >US envoy to Haiti resigns in protest of Biden administration migrant policy

Departure of Daniel Foote, a career diplomat, comes as Washington deals with surge of Haitian migrants

The U.S. special envoy for Haiti, Ambassador Daniel Foote, has resigned his post in protest over the Biden administration’s decision to conduct large-scale deportations in response to a surge of Haitian migrants.

In a letter dated Wednesday, two months from the date of his appointment, Mr. Foote wrote: “I will not be associated with the United States’ inhumane, counterproductive decision to deport thousands of Haitian refugees and illegal immigrants to Haiti," calling attention to rampant gang violence in the country.

He characterized U.S. policy toward Haiti, the poorest nation in the Western Hemisphere, as flawed, accusing administration officials of distorting or ignoring his recommendations.

Citing poverty, gang violence and government corruption, Mr. Foote wrote that the Haitian people “simply cannot support the forced infusion of thousands of returned migrants lacking food, shelter and money without additional, avoidable human tragedy."

State Department spokesman Ned Price on Thursday disputed Mr. Foote’s characterization of events, saying administration officials had held “multiple senior-level policy conversations on Haiti, where all proposals, including those led by Special Envoy Foote, were fully considered in a rigorous and transparent policy process."

He described Mr. Foote’s claim that his recommendations were ignored as false, and said the administration conducts policy debates on an array of issues.

“It is unfortunate that, instead of participating in a solutions-oriented policy process, Special Envoy Foote has both resigned and mischaracterized the circumstances of his resignation," Mr. Price said. “He failed to take advantage of ample opportunity to raise concerns about migration during his tenure and chose to resign instead."

Deputy Secretary of State Wendy Sherman said that Mr. Foote’s ideas had included U.S. military intervention in Haiti—a move she said “was a bad idea" and wouldn’t solve the country’s problems. Mr. Foote couldn’t be reached to respond to Ms. Sherman’s assertion.

In his resignation letter, Mr. Foote described the Haitian government as collapsed and unable to provide for the security or basic needs of the population. He warned that an influx of refugees “will fuel further desperation and crime," in turn spurring more migration to the U.S.

He called on the U.S. and the international community to support the Haitian people’s efforts at self-determination, rather than seeking to direct the course of the country’s politics from afar.

Mr. Foote also criticized international support for Prime Minister Ariel Henry, whom he called the “unelected, de facto" leader of the country.

The Department of Homeland Security said that it sent nine deportation flights, carrying about 1,400 passengers, back to Haiti from Sunday through Wednesday. Flight-tracking data show that five more deportation flights were en route from Texas to Haiti on Thursday.

The government is deporting the Haitian migrants under a public-health authority known as Title 42, which the administration says allows it to rapidly expel migrants at the border to help prevent the spread of Covid-19 in the U.S. That process denies the migrants a chance to ask for asylum, a process that a federal judge ruled illegal last week—though he halted the effect of his decision for two weeks.

Administration officials believed the flights were necessary to break a cycle of Haitian citizens, many of whom had been living and working in countries in South America, from migrating to the U.S. They believe that, once deported citizens land in Haiti, word of their arrival will spread quickly through social media and deter more from attempting to enter the U.S., according to people familiar with their thinking.

Though Haitians have been coming to the border at an unprecedented clip already this year, the pace picked up in recent days, leading to the makeshift border camp under a bridge in Del Rio, Texas.

Approximately 4,000 migrants were still living in a makeshift camp under the border-crossing bridge in Del Rio, down from a high of about 14,000 over the weekend, according to DHS officials. The officials told reporters Thursday they believe several thousand Haitians had fled back into Mexico.

The flights represent a significant escalation in the Biden administration’s immigration-enforcement strategy, after it teetered for months over how to handle asylum-seeking migrants at the southern border.

Before now, the administration was allowing most families with children a chance to make an asylum claim in the U.S., because Mexico wouldn’t accept many of them back under Title 42. Only recently, it began returning Guatemalan migrants back to Guatemala on planes, and the administration is in negotiations to start similar expulsion flights to El Salvador and Honduras as well, according to a person familiar with the plan.

Haitian migrants have been a particular source of tension inside the Biden administration, with advisers splitting even before the July assassination of Haitian President Jovenel Moïse over whether it was ethical to deport people back to a country roiled by political unrest, according to people familiar with the matter.

In May, the administration offered about 100,000 Haitians living in the U.S. illegally a temporary reprieve from deportation on humanitarian grounds, under a program known as Temporary Protected Status. At the same time, the Department of Homeland Security continued deporting newly arriving Haitians, though it briefly paused flights following the Aug. 14 earthquake.

Mr. Foote, a career foreign-service officer, was appointed on July 22 following Mr. Moïse’s assassination. He was tasked with working with Haitian leaders and the international community “to facilitate long-term peace and stability and support efforts to hold free and fair presidential and legislative elections," Mr. Price, the department spokesman, said at the time.

He was assigned to coordinate the multiagency U.S. effort to assist Haiti in the aftermath of Mr. Moïse’s assassination, which triggered a power struggle and heightened instability. His role was additional to that of the U.S. ambassador to the country.

Mr. Foote’s previous assignments include service as the deputy chief of mission in Haiti, and as the U.S. ambassador to Zambia.


Subscribe to Mint Newsletters
* Enter a valid email
* Thank you for subscribing to our newsletter.

Never miss a story! Stay connected and informed with Mint. Download our App Now!!

Edit Profile
My ReadsRedeem a Gift CardLogout