Posted on June 15, 2022

U.S. Accelerated Expulsions of Haitian Migrants in May

Eileen Sullivan, New York Times, June 9, 2022

The Biden administration expelled nearly 4,000 Haitians on 36 deportation flights in May — a significant increase over the previous three months — after renegotiating agreements with the island nation, which has been crippled by gang violence and an expanding humanitarian crisis.

Over the past year, a growing number of Haitians have been making the journey through the jungles of South America to dangerous stretches of northern Mexico, then crossing into the United States. Recently, many have also been trying to reach Florida by boat. They have been part of a record wave of migration at the border with Mexico.

While the number of Haitians crossing into the United States has increased recently, it is far from the biggest migration challenge facing the country. It just happens to be one of the easiest for the administration to manage.

An emergency public health rule has allowed border officials to quickly expel migrants during the coronavirus pandemic. Eduardo Maia Silva, a spokesman for the Homeland Security Department, said the public health rule applies to migrants from all countries and “is not specific to Haitian nationals.”

But the Biden administration is limited in terms of where it can send flights. For the most part, Mexico will accept migrants turned back from the United States only if they are from El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Mexico and, in limited cases, Cuba and Nicaragua.

Others must be flown back to their countries, but U.S. border officials have to allow most Cubans, Nicaraguans and Venezuelans — who make up a significant portion of those recently crossing the border — to stay and eventually face removal proceedings. A lack of diplomatic relations with those countries prevents the United States from sending flights there.

But the U.S. government also cannot send as many removal flights as it would like to countries with which it has strong diplomatic ties.


But some say that the instability in Haiti, especially since the assassination in July of its former president, Jovenel Moïse, has made it relatively easy for the U.S. government to send flights there. At one point last month, Haitians represented about 6 percent of the migrants crossing the border with Mexico but occupied 60 percent of expulsion flights, according to flight records and internal border data.


From May 19 to 26, U.S. border officials encountered 1,868 Haitians who had crossed the southwestern border, according to internal government data. During that period, there were 21 expulsion flights to Haiti. In comparison, over the same period, they encountered 5,264 Guatemalans and 4,453 Hondurans, and the United States sent seven expulsion flights to each country.

“Haiti can do nothing to slow deportations,” said Daniel Foote, a former special envoy to Haiti who resigned last year in protest of the Biden administration’s handling of the mass migration crisis in Del Rio. Yet sending thousands back to Haiti, which he described as a failed state, would only exacerbate the situation, he said.


Since September, more than 25,000 Haitians have been expelled from the United States and returned to Haiti. There does not appear to be an end in sight. Recently, anticipating a change in border policy that has been put on hold, more Haitians have waited in northern Mexico with plans to cross the border and ask for asylum — a legal right that has been blocked since the beginning of the pandemic.


The Biden administration also reinstated the Haitian Family Reunification Parole Program, which the Trump administration ended in 2019. The program gives eligible U.S. citizens and lawful permanent residents the ability to apply for parole for family members in Haiti. But there have been delays in getting the program up and running because administration officials believe it is unsafe to send U.S. government employees to Haiti to process the applications, according to a Senate aide who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss an internal matter.

This year, the administration has authorized 55,000 temporary work visas, with 18,000 set aside for people from El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras and Haiti. The Department of Homeland Security does not track how many of those went to people from each country.

The recent uptick in expulsions of Haitians has again drawn criticism that the Biden administration treats Black migrants differently than others, an allegation it has repeatedly denied.

“The administration must commit to racial equity in its immigration policy and address the anti-Black racism that disproportionately impacts Haitian migrants at the border,” said Senator Bob Menendez, Democrat of New Jersey and the chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee. He and others pointed to the swift action that the United States took to allow Ukrainians into the country as they fled the Russian invasion.