Ambassador Daniel Foote, the United States special envoy for Haiti, has resigned in protest of mass deportations by the US of Haitians gathered on the US border with Mexico.
“I will not be associated with the United States’ inhumane, counterproductive decision to deport thousands of Haitian refugees and illegal immigrants to Haiti,” Foote said in a resignation letter, first reported by PBS and confirmed on Thursday to the Reuters news service by a senior Department of State official.
Racked by earthquakes and hurricanes, Haiti is struggling with a political crisis following the July 7 assassination of Prime Minister Jovenel Moise by a group of commandos who stormed his private residence. A transitional government is being formed until elections, scheduled for November.
As many as 14,000 Haitian migrants had congregated on both sides of the US border with Mexico at Del Rio, Texas, and US authorities have begun to forcibly deport hundreds back to Haiti. Others, families with children are being moved into the US asylum program within the US.
The “collapsed” Haitian state “is unable to provide security or basic services and more refugees will fuel further desperation and crime”, Foote wrote in his resignation letter, complaining top State Department officials had dismissed or ignored his recommendations.
“Surging migration to our borders will only grow as we add to Haiti’s unacceptable misery,” Foote said.
Foote criticized a recent statement of support for “the unelected, de facto Prime minister Dr. Ariel Henry”.
Haitians need the opportunity “to chart their own course, without international puppeteering and favored candidates but with genuine support for that course”.
The State Department official, speaking to Reuters on condition of anonymity, thanked Foote for his service but said the ambassador had overstepped his remit.
“He’s consistently sought a greater oversight, greater responsibility in a way that we did not think was appropriate or prudent at the time,” the official said.
Rights groups in the US have criticized the Biden administration for its handling of Haitian migrants at the southwest US border.
“It’s completely unconscionable,” Steven Forester, immigration policy coordinator at the US-based Institute for Justice and Democracy in Haiti, told Al Jazeera.
“There’s no way Haiti can handle the people that are in Haiti now given the conditions there. It can’t provide for these people.”
US Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas on Monday had declared the border closed and said 6,500 migrants and asylum seekers had been taken into custody in advance of processing and removal from the US.
Meanwhile, Mexican security forces have surrounded a camp of Haitian on the Mexican side of the border, The Associated Press reported.
Migrants who had camped in a park beside a river in Ciudad Acuna found state police trucks spaced every 30 feet or so between their tents and the water’s edge Thursday morning.
The entrance to the park was blocked and just outside, Mexican National Guard troops and immigration agents waited along with three buses.
The Mexican authorities’ operation appeared designed to drive the migrants back across the river into Texas. A fence line and the line of state police vehicles funneled the migrants back to the crossing point they had been using all week.