A senior American diplomat who oversees Haiti policy has resigned, two U.S. officials said, submitting a letter to the State Department that excoriated the Biden administration’s “inhumane, counterproductive decision” to send Haitian migrants back to a country that has been wracked this summer by a deadly earthquake and political turmoil.
The diplomat, Daniel Foote, was appointed special envoy to Haiti in July, just weeks after President Jovenel Moïse waskilled in his bedroom during a nighttime raid on his residence. Mr. Foote, a former ambassador to Zambia and acting assistant secretary for international narcotics and law enforcement affairs, did not respond to messages for comment on Thursday morning.
In his stinging resignation letter, dated Wednesday, Mr. Foote criticized the Biden administration for deporting some of the thousands of the Haitian migrants who had traveled to the Texas border from Mexico and Central America in recent days.
“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 in control of daily life,” Mr. Foote wrote in the letter, which was first reported by PBS NewsHour. Its authenticity was confirmed by a senior State Department official and a congressional official.
Mr. Foote also blasted a “cycle of international political interventions in Haiti” that “has consistently produced catastrophic results,” and he warned that the number ofmigrants to American borders “will only grow as we add to Haiti’s unacceptable misery.”
In May, the Biden administration extended temporary protected status for 150,000 Haitians already living in the United States. The order was extended again for Haitians living in the United States before July 29. But tens of thousands more Haitians have attempted to cross into the United States since then, despite not qualifying for the program.
Mr. Foote was said to have pushed for greater oversight and responsibilities in his job as envoy to Haiti, efforts that were rejected by senior State Department officials. The department’s spokesman, Ned Price, on Thursday described proposals put forward, including by Mr. Foote, that “were determined to be harmful to our commitment to the promotion of democracy in Haiti and were rejected during the policy process.”
“No ideas are ignored, but not all ideas are good ideas,” Mr. Price said. He was responding to Mr. Foote’s claim, in his resignation letter, that his recommendations were “ignored and dismissed.”
“Our policy approach to Haiti remains deeply flawed,” Mr. Foote wrote.
The rise in Haitian migration began in the months after President Biden took office, when he quickly began reversing former President Donald J. Trump’s strictest immigration policies, which was interpreted by many as a sign that the United States would be more welcoming to migrants.
The U.S. Border Patrol said that more than 9,000 migrants, mostly from Haiti, were being held in a temporary staging area under the Del Rio International Bridge in Texas as agents worked as quickly as they could to process them.
About 1,400 Haitians have been deported since Sunday, with more flights scheduled for each day, according to U.S. Customs and Border Protection. As of Thursday, there were around 4,050 migrants, most of them Haitians, still at the Del Rio bridge.
As many as 14,000 migrants are expected to be returned to Haiti over the next several weeks. Haitian officials have pleaded with the United States to grant a “humanitarian moratorium,” amid widespread instability.
But the Biden administration, facing the highest level of border crossings in decades, has enforced policies intended to slow the entry of migrants. On Monday, Alejandro N. Mayorkas, the secretary of the Department of Homeland Security, said newly-arrived Haitians would not be covered by the temporary residence orders that were extended earlier this year.
“We are very concerned that Haitians who are taking this irregular migration path are receiving false information that the border is open or that temporary protected status is available,” Mr. Mayorkas said during a news conference on Monday in Del Rio, Texas. “I want to make sure that it is known that this is not the way to come to the United States.”
Officials at Haiti’s Embassy in Washington did not respond to messages for comment Thursday morning.
In a statement, the State Department thanked Mr. Foote for his service and said “the United States remains committed to supporting safe, orderly, and humane migration throughout our region.”
The statement said that the United States and the United Nations’ immigration agency was trying to make sure that Haitians who are deported are met at the Port-au-Prince airport and given a meal, a hygiene kit and $100.
“Over the long-term, the U.S. government is committed to working with the Haitian government and stakeholders across Haiti to strengthen democratic governance and the rule of law, increase inclusive economic growth, and improve security and the protection of human rights in Haiti,” the department’s statement said.
Eileen Sullivan contributed reporting.